Tomball and Magnolia 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 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, Magnolia ISD had a net loss of 343 students due to transfers out, which represents 2% 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. Magnolia ISD saw a net loss of students from transfers, but had the lowest percentage of loss compared to total enrollment.
“MISD used to offer open enrollment, and our enrollment transfer-in was around 300 students,” said Denise Meyers, Magnolia ISD’s executive director of communications, in an April 9 email. “However, that number has been declining since we closed open enrollment due to the growth and seat capacity needed in our schools.”

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. 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. For Magnolia ISD, about 206 students, or 31%, chose to transfer to a charter school.

Meanwhile, U.S. Census Bureau Annual Community Survey five-year estimates data shows 22,829 kids ages 5-19 lived within TISD’s boundaries and 16,316 kids ages 5-19 lived within Magnolia ISD’s boundaries in 2022. In comparison, TISD’s enrollment for the 2023-24 school year was 22,273, and Magnolia ISD’s was 14,468.

The cost

School districts receive state funding based on attendance, making student enrollment an important factor as they face state financial hurdles. TISD faces a $9.1 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 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.

For FY 2023-24, Magnolia ISD had a $134 million balanced budget, per prior reporting. The school board held its first budget workshop April 15 at which district officials said they do not expect a shortfall in the district’s 2024-25 school year budget. The board will still need to decide what to do with the $1.25 million in leftover funding Magnolia ISD has remaining, district officials said. Raises or one-time retention payments were proposed as options for the leftover funding.

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

TISD enrollment has increased by about 78% in the last decade, 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, according to TEA data. Simultaneously, the data shows Magnolia ISD saw about 19% enrollment growth and 102% more students leaving for charters and other public schools.
Enrollment at public schools—which includes charter schools—has increased at a slower rate statewide compared to before the coronavirus pandemic, said Popinski.

“[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.

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,” Amy Schindewolf, TISD chief of staff and school leadership, said via email.