Austin ISD enrollment down by 5,000 students to start 2020-21 school year

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke at a board meeting Sept. 28 about the district's reopening plan as well as enrollment declines. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke at a board meeting Sept. 28 about the district's reopening plan as well as enrollment declines. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde spoke at a board meeting Sept. 28 about the district's reopening plan as well as enrollment declines. (Courtesy Austin ISD)

Following a year in which Austin ISD saw its student enrollment rise for the first time since 2012, the district is now estimating a decline of more than 5,000 students for the 2020-21 school year, which would bring enrollment down to about 75,000.

During a presentation to trustees Sept. 28, AISD Chief Business Officer Larry Throm said the enrollment decrease could result in $48 million in lost state revenue if numbers do not begin to trend upward as the school year continues.

“We don't want to alarm anybody,” he said. “These are facts, and we'll wait to see it in another two weeks where we are taking attendance daily to see if we can improve on these numbers.”

According to district data, AISD’s enrollment as of Sept. 25 has dropped to 75,001, compared to 80,261 in the 2019-20 school year.

While high schools have actually seen a 289-student increase in enrollment, there was a 4,836-student decline in elementary schools and a 298-student drop in middle schools. The district also reports a 274-student drop at its specialized facilities that are not based on grade levels.


Throm said each student in AISD generates an average of $10,040 in state revenue for the district, and the 5,119 students who have left the district will total about $51.4 million. Adjusted based on average daily attendance—which is used to calculate state funding— Throm said AISD could lose out on $48 million in revenue compared to last year.

He said AISD’s budget for the current fiscal year shows about $56 million more in expenditures than in revenues. The difference will come from the district’s reserves, which are currently estimated to be at about $314 million.

As the district continues to plan its finances, Throm said the district will have to consider cuts, which could include payroll. Based on 22-person class sizes, he said the 5,119 students could be seen as 232 teachers who might no longer be needed. However, even removing those teaching positions would only save the district $30 million, which would not make up the entire shortfall, he said.

“We cannot just save our way by letting teachers go,” he said. “You could argue that you could let other types of personnel go, and we’ll certainly have to [consider that].”

The update on district enrollment and funding was given during a board discussion about AISD's plan to reopen campuses to in-person learning. The district will begin letting students onto campus Oct. 5. Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde said the Texas Education Agency is requiring districts to offer an in-person option, and districts that do not may lose state funding.

“As we [have] said, this is a year like no other,” Elizalde said. “We have some challenges with regard to just the enrollment that we have at this time, and I bring this up because funding. We all know there are certain requirements that the Texas Education Agency has."
By Nicholas Cicale
Nick has been with Community Impact Newspaper since 2016, working with the Lake Travis-Westlake and Southwest Austin-Dripping Springs editions. He previously worked as a reporter in Minnesota and earned a degree from Florida State University.


MOST RECENT

electric grid
ERCOT board developing new emergency response measures, managing financial fallout from winter storm

An emergency meeting of an ERCOT advisory committee made up of independent advisers was convened March 5 after the resignations of several board and of ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. 

Cars wait their turn for a vaccine dose at the Texas Motor Speedway on Feb. 2. The hub was hosted by Denton County Public Health. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Texas doctor discusses first 3 months of vaccine distribution process

Texas is in its 12th week of statewide vaccine distribution, and an expansion of eligibility for vaccination could come later this spring.

Snow covers crops at Johnson's Backyard Garden in Austin. (Courtesy Johnson’s Backyard Garden)
Central Texas farmers are reeling after the winter freeze wiped out their crops. Here is how you can help

"Even though farmers prepared, I think people didn't anticipate how much damage would come," said Leigh'Ann Andrews of Billie and Jean's Farm in Kyle.

For a third consecutive semester, Texas public school districts will not be penalized financially due to declining enrollment and attendance as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, due to an extension of the hold-harmless guarantee, state leaders announced March 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas leaders ensure financial stability for public school districts through spring semester with hold-harmless extension

The guarantee also ensures that Texas school systems can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted.

Winter Storm Uri caused restaurants across Austin to close due to power outages and unsafe road conditions. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Energy GM Jacqueline Sargent resigns from ERCOT's board of directors in wake of winter storms

Sargent's departure follows a trend of resignations from the agency that oversees Texas' power system.

Central Texas Food Bank
Central Texas Food Bank announces distribution sites in March following winter storm

The Central Texas Food Bank is holding food distribution events throughout March for local residents experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lingering effects from damage caused by Winter Storm Uri.

Courtney Manuel (center), I Live Here I Give Here executive director, and and board chair Kathy Smith-Willman (right) stand with Edward B. Burger, St. David's Foundation executive director, during Amplify Austin Day 2020. (Courtesy Trent Lee Photography)
Here's how to support Central Texas nonprofits during ninth annual Amplify Austin Day on March 4-5

The annual 24-hour giving campaign will begin at 6 p.m. on March 4.

People wait in line to receive a vaccine at an Austin Public Health vaccination site. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas offers COVID-19 vaccinations to school, child care workers

Educators, school staff and child care professionals are qualified to receive coronavirus vaccines effective immediately.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.