Central Texas school districts stand to lose millions after decline in student enrollment

Education

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Several Central Texas school systems are reporting a significant decline in student enrollment, which could mean less money trickling down from the state.

“The virtual learning was stressful having three kids at home. After a week of trying the district’s online curriculum, we decided it wasn’t going to work out,” said Sarah Schultz.

Sarah Schultz is one of the many parents in the Pflugerville Independent School District who have decided to unenroll their students.

Sarah Schultz’s son practices his homeschool work. Schultz unenrolled him from Pflugerville ISD this year.

In Pflugerville, the district projected a 3% increase in enrollment, but they’ve actually lost 1,300 students. The data currently shows most of the students leaving are in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and first grade, and they’re transferring to homeschooling or an area charter school.

“If COVID-19 restrictions let up, then we may see some increases, but we just don’t know,” said Tamra Spence with Pflugerville ISD Communications. “We’re projecting a shortfall of about $9.2 million. Neighboring districts are feeling the same shortfalls.”

Pflugerville’s first steps is to cut department budgets by 5% and leave money for staffing and classrooms intact.

The Leander Independent School District has lost nearly 1,000 students and hasn’t seen the Pre-K enrollment they expected. District officials say they don’t anticipate making cuts.

“Our demographer has said next year we should see the students come back in addition to the growth we were expecting,” said Elaine Cogburn, Leander ISD chief financial officer.

Cogburn says the district put in place a ‘rainy day fund’ to cover the shortfalls this year, but they’re still planning ahead.

“It is causing us to look at vacancies as they come open. ‘Do we need to fill that now, or can it stay open,'” said Cogburn. “This has been a tricky year to predict. Usually we go off of trends, but nothing is a trend anymore.”

Georgetown has seen nearly 300 student withdrawals district-wide, creating a $4 million loss. At a recent meeting, Georgetown’s school board approved a policy to accept out-of-district transfer students at campuses below 95% capacity.

The Austin Independent School District said it has lost more than 5,000 students since the end of last year with more than 75,000 students currently enrolled.

In Round Rock, district enrollment is down 2,400 students with more than 48,000 currently enrolled. Dripping Springs, however, has gained more than 60 students.

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