Thousands of St. Paul kids attend schools outside the district -- drawing away valuable per-pupil revenues in the process -- so it comes as little surprise that there would be concern, too, when the school system loses children it now has in its buildings.
To get a better sense of why families pull kids from the schools, the district created an online survey listing possible factors, and it invited parents to choose those that applied to them.
The results showed that 40 percent of respondents withdrew their children in 2015-16 because the family had moved, 36 percent did so because they believed the school was unsafe and 30 percent pulled their kids because they said they were being bullied or harassed, among other reasons.
The survey was designed to be more comprehensive than an earlier version in 2014-15 that looked solely at kindergartners who left the district. But its use in future years -- key to gleaning possible trends -- has been clouded by budgets cuts enacted by the school board during the summer.
"We don't have any plans to revive it," district spokeswoman Toya Stewart Downey said Friday.
Board Chairman Jon Schumacher, on the other hand, said: "I will not say that's the last you'll see of that."
Joe Nathan, a member of a No Cuts to Kids group that sought to protect classrooms from budget cuts, pushed for release of the survey results. He said he was cautious about reading too much into the findings because of a low response rate. Like Schumacher and Stewart Downey, he also said that the percentage of people who cited safety concerns was not surprising.
He wants the survey to continue and for the process to be improved by having bilingual staff members on hand to interview parents who do not read or speak English. This year's survey was in English only.
"Unfortunately, some senior SPPS administrators seem to be in denial about the value of this information," Nathan said. "Fortunately, a new board seems much more interested."
The issue has surfaced as the board tries to find ways to connect with the broader school community. Next week, it is expected to approve a new community engagement project that will assist it in the hiring of a new superintendent as well as efforts to build consensus around other issues.