Data: Austin ISD student population to decrease by 4,043 students in 10 years

After two years of enrollment declines, Austin ISD expects to see a continued decline in its student population during the next 10 years, according to its annual demographic report presented to the districts board of trustees at its Jan. 12 work session.

AISD commissions a demographic report every year to identify student population trends and plan for budget development and staffing. Davis Demographics & Planning, LLC prepared the latest demographic report and presented its findings. Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz noted student population is not the same thing as enrollment; enrollment represents the number of students who actually attend AISD schools.

It is important to keep in mind that [student population] is about where students reside, Cruz said. This is just one of the elements we use for actual projections.

From fall 2015 to 2024, AISD student populations are expected to decline annually. According to the report, the number of residential students is projected to be 80,385 by the start of the 2024 school year, which would be a 5.8 percent decline compared with SY 2014, representing 4,043 fewer students.

The biggest declines will be in elementary and middle school grade levels, according to the report. Lower elementary student counts will translate to student population decreases at all grade levels throughout the 10-year period.

As part of the demographic report, Davis also tracked planned and future residential developments in Austin and noted an estimated 8,100 potential units to be developed during the 10-year period. Student growth as a result of that growth will likely be limited as a result of high housing costs, city of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson said.

Austin has experienced an unprecedented erosion in our affordability, he said.

Robinson said some parts of the district will likely grow significantly and rapidly, while others will not. He added Austin received new poverty data from the Census Bureau in December showing the citys poverty level decreased from 20.8 percent to 17.5 percent. He examined the poverty rate in Bastrop County and found it increased from 10 percent to 22 percent.

Were not only displacing our poorest households, were pushing them way outside [the city], Robinson said.

Trustee Paul Saldaa pointed out data showing that the majority of children younger than 5 years old in Austin are Hispanic and African-American children, and more than 90 percent of them live in poverty.

While kindergarten numbers are down because of a nationwide trend of lower birth rates and other factors, the districts market share of students who attend AISD versus other districts and charter schools is also down, trustee Amber Elenz said. AISD could look at its small urban schools as opportunities to implement programs that could draw families and keep them from leaving the district to pursue charter school education instead, she said.

The school district is holding community forums in January to give community members a chance to meet Cruz, the districts sole finalist for superintendent. Forums will be held Jan. 15 at Summitt and Pickle elementary schools, Jan. 21, at Austin High School, and Jan. 24 at Crockett High School.