AUSTIN (KXAN) — The new Austin ISD school board has a big task on their hands. Monday’s work session included talk about a new demographics report that projects the district’s student enrollment to drop by about 4,000 students over the next 10 years.
The report from Davis Demographics & Planning predicts the drop will be brought on by lower birth rates, higher property values and rent causing fewer families to move in with school-aged children. The largest decline is expected to be in Central and East Austin.
The Weinberg family bought a home in East Austin back in 2010.
“We moved over in this neighborhood because we liked the direction it was going,” said Jennifer Weinberg. “We really were looking for a place to start our family and our life together.”
Now Jennifer and her husband have a daughter, Evan, who’s almost 2 years old and have another baby on the way. It makes sense for their kids to eventually go to Sanchez Elementary, which is right across the street.
“That’s where we always wanted her to go, and only recently did we start looking at the actual school scores and rankings,” said Jennifer.
But she didn’t like what she saw online and is thinking about other options.
“There are a lot of good charter schools in the area, and we also considered the cost of moving versus private school,” said Jennifer.
The biggest drop in enrollment is expected at Martin Middle School, located just a few blocks away from their home. Projections show it could have 400 fewer students by 2024.
“It’s very concerning,” said Nicole Conley, chief financial officer for AISD.
She has already done the math on how it could impact the district over the next three- to four years.
“If we do nothing, if we put no interventions in place, the district can see a shortfall that can go anywhere up to almost $46 million budgetarily — assuming that those trends hold.”
The Weinberg’s have not completely written off AISD. They are optimistic the quality of education will continue to improve. For now, they’ve decided to stay put and see where the campus stands in three years when it’s time to make a decision for their oldest child.
“How great would it be for her to go there?” said Jennifer. “We just want to make sure we give her the best opportunity we can.”
School finance ripple effect
Lawmakers in Austin will have plenty to figure out when it comes to paying for schools this year. Right now, some 600 school districts, including Austin ISD, are suing the state over its school finance system. A ruling is expected later in the spring.
One man at the center of the debate, House Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock, says the state shouldn’t wait for that ruling to start working. In a memo sent to lawmakers, Aycock asked for input now.
The size of Austin ISD will have a ripple effect for everyone living in and around the district.
The Texas school finance system requires all districts get about the same amount of money per student. So, if Austin’s student base decreases, the amount of money Austin gets to keep also goes down.
A lot of the recaptured money will go to less wealthy school districts.
Because a lot of families are moving to suburban districts like Leander, Pflugerville and Hutto ISD, those districts can expect to see more students in the coming years.