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.


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