Conroe and Tomball ISDs were among the districts in northwest Houston with the lowest student transfer rates for the 2023-24 school year, Texas Education Agency data shows.

The overview

Community Impact analyzed data from the TEA on transfers from nine local school districts and total enrollment. Transfer data from the TEA for the 2023-24 school year shows despite 574 students zoned to TISD leaving, the district had a net gain of 0.3% of total enrollment with transfers in. In the same time period, Conroe ISD lost 2,693 students due to transfers out, but gained 672 to transfers in, which represents a net loss of 2,021 students, or 2.79% of the district’s total enrollment
Out of nine public school districts in northwest Houston analyzed by Community Impact, TEA data shows TISD and Montgomery ISD were the only districts that saw a net increase of students. Conroe ISD saw a net loss of students from transfers, but had the second-lowest rate out of the nine districts. Only Magnolia ISD was lower, at 2% net loss.
"We are blessed with an amazing community and strong school district that is a destination for many families with housing developments breaking ground regularly," said Sarah Blakelock, executive director of communications for CISD. "For over a decade, Conroe ISD grew by an average of 1,500 students a year with the average for the last three years being over 2,500 students."

Zooming in

The students who opt to transfer out of the district they live in have multiple options, including another public school district and charter schools. In Conroe ISD, about 54% of the transfers out of district were to charter schools. Of TISD’s transfers out for the 2023-24 school year, 233 students, or 41%, chose charters, while the rest attended other public school districts, according to TEA data.

Meanwhile, U.S. Census Bureau Annual Community Survey five-year estimates data shows 80,311 kids ages 5-19 lived within Conroe ISD’s boundaries in 2022, and 22,829 kids ages 5-19 lived within TISD. In comparison, CISD’s enrollment was 72,352 for the 2023-24 school year and TISD’s was 22,273.

The cost

School districts receive state funding based on attendance, making student enrollment an important factor as they face state financial hurdles. Conroe ISD projects a $17.7 million shortfall for fiscal year 2024-25 as of an April 2 workshop meeting. The preliminary budget numbers include an estimated total revenue of $695.1 million and an estimated expenditure of $712.82 million, creating the projected shortfall, which officials said equates to about 200 positions.

TISD faces a $9.1 million budget shortfall for FY 2024-25 largely due to inflation and a lack of funding devoted to public education during the 88th Texas legislative session, Chief Financial Officer Zack Boles said in an April 8 presentation.

Charter schools also receive state funding and were impacted by a lack of funding dedicated to schools during the 88th state legislative session, said Bob Popinski, senior director of policy at Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit education advocacy group.

By the numbers

TEA data shows Conroe ISD saw about 33% enrollment growth and almost 150% more students leaving for charters and other public schools in the last decade. Simultaneously, TISD enrollment has increased by about 78%, while the number of students transferring out each year for charter schools or other public school districts increased about 98% in the same time frame.
Enrollment at public schools—which includes charter schools—has increased at a slower rate statewide compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, Popinski said.

“[Texas schools] do base our funding off of average daily attendance, so when enrollment declines and attendance declines, you get into some issues with funding,” Popinski said.

CISD Director of Communications Sarah Blakelock said despite the increases, the number of students transferring out to charter schools from the district is a small percentage of overall students.

In an April 15 email, TISD leaders said the district is continuing to provide quality education for students and increase technical education offerings, but they have concerns about funding.

“Enrollment plays a large part in our budget, and despite positive growth, we are concerned with the lack of increased funding from the state,” said Amy Schindewolf, TISD chief of staff and school leadership, via email.