Austin ISD graduation rates up, enrollment numbers dip

Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz.
Austin ISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz.

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The man leading the Austin Independent School District says it is strong, despite declining enrollment and financial challenges.

Dr. Paul Cruz delivered the State of the District address Monday to a room full of business leaders, financial supporters and nonprofits.

“AISD graduation rates are at an all-time high at 84.1 percent,” the interim superintendent said, starting his speech with the high notes. But enrollment numbers are moving in the opposite direction.

“As housing costs soar, some of our families are being displaced and moving outside of Austin.”

After the first six weeks of class, districtwide enrollment is down by about 400 students compared to last year, with a noticeable dip in Pre-K and kindergarten classes.

District employees have been going to stores and even door-to-door letting families know the school year has started and students can still enroll.

Another big challenge facing the district is the rising amount of property tax revenue the district gives back to the state. This year alone AISD expects to say goodbye to $175 million, which equals an extra $30,000 for every teacher in the district.

All of this is happening as the district searches for a new superintendent. The board made it clear from day one Cruz cannot apply, but they’re not ruling him out.

“If we get to a point where in looking at all of the applicants and we really don’t see a good fit, then certainly we then need to sit back and say, ‘OK, now what do we do?’” said Vincent Torres, Austin ISD board president. “He certainly would be one of those folks we would consider at that point.”

The amount of low income students in AISD is now at 62 percent, which equates to 53,000 children.

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