Eanes ISD board of trustees considers marketing efforts to attract out-of-district transfers

EISD Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnet presented an overview of projected out-of-district transfer rates for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)
EISD Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnet presented an overview of projected out-of-district transfer rates for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

EISD Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnet presented an overview of projected out-of-district transfer rates for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

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Eanes ISD trustees viewed a map out where out-of-district transfers commute from, with the largest number transferring from the Southwest Austin area. (Courtesy Eanes ISD)

Eanes ISD attracts a number of out-of-district transfer students throughout the Greater Austin area, bringing in students as far west as Spicewood and as far north as Cedar Park. These students also bring in additional funding for the district.

Trustees met virtually April 28, receiving a presentation on transfer students from Deputy Superintendent Jeff Arnet.

Arnet clarified an out-of-district transfer refers to a student living outside the district’s boundary who annually applies to enroll in EISD. The classification does not include students or staff members who transfer campuses within the district.

Each out-of-district transfer brings in $8,602 in funding per student and effectively lowers the district’s recapture payments by that amount, according to district information.

Texas’ recapture system requires districts with a cost per student higher than $6,030 to contribute payments based on their taxable value, according to the Texas Education Agency.

EISD has experienced a decrease of about 5.3% in out-of-district transfers since the 2016-17 school year. The district had 355 transfers enroll in 2019-20 compared to 433 in 2016-17.

The percentage has been steadily declining, and according to district information, the overall number is projected to decrease again in the 2020-21 school year. In part the decrease is due to families battling long commute times, according to Arnet.

EISD is anticipating overall enrollment in 2020-21 at 8,030 with 316 out-of-district transfer students or 3.9%. This would reflect a 39 student decrease and $335,478 in less funding.

In an effort to combat this decline, trustees discussed options of a marketing campaign to attract transfer students while staying wary of class sizes.

EISD ran a marketing campaign in 2018 that resulted in an additional 24 new students, predominantly in grade levels six through 12. Board President Jennifer Champagne said she recalls the overall cost of that campaign being relatively low.

Trustee Christie Bybee said she would like to see the district engage in an additional campaign. However, she recommended re-evaluating EISD’s transfer policy. It is Bybee’s understanding that students are not guaranteed re-enrollment each year, which could deter families from showing interest.

Arnet noted Westlake High School remains a popular destination for transfer students.

“We’ve seen increasingly as families get towards the junior or senior year of their youngest child, more and more families are selling their homes and moving outside the district,” Arnet said.

To honor their time as an EISD student, the district will generally convert that student to an out-of-district transfer. However, EISD typically does not accept transfer students new to the district at the high school level.

Arnet explained the district has the greatest capacity within the primary grades, and families have shown the greatest interest in enrolling students in third, fourth and fifth grades.

“I’m much more willing to bring people in the elementary grades,” trustee Jason Paull said, adding he wants these students to become a part of the EISD community.

Despite the annual decrease, the district is feeling optimistic about bringing in out-of-district transfers, with Superintendent Tom Leonard saying he has recently seen a large number of inquiries.

“I’ve been with the district six years,” Leonard said. “I’ve never had as many emails from other parts of the U.S. and Austin with interest in the district.”

As the district’s Spanish immersion program expands to additional grade levels, EISD is anticipating a bump in out-of-district transfers.

For the 2019-20 school year there were 33 out-of-district transfers enrolled in Spanish immersion, making up 21.6% of all transfers in the kindergarten through fifth-grade levels.

EISD previously saw a jump in enrollment about a decade ago during the last economic downtown, according to trustee James Spradley, largely due to local families transferring their children from private school to public.

As the community weathers the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, this possibility is on the district’s radar, according to Arnet.

While EISD considers attracting more out-of-district transfers Leonard reminds trustees to stay vigilant in monitoring class sizes.

This information was for presentation only and does not require official board action at this time.

By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.