Our Opinion: Enrollment projection optimistic, will require work

Published 6:07 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

Austin Public Schools will have some work ahead of them in the coming years after Monday night’s news that the district is projected to see increased enrollment over the next 10 years.

This comes as good news, though, for a district that has seen decreasing or flat enrollment over the last couple years, coupled with the hit it took from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin currently is at the bottom of schools in terms of an operating referendum at $42.70 per student. This was often mitigated by Austin’s increasing enrollment, which it enjoyed for several years, but once that enrollment began to stagnate, the negative side to the low operating referendum showed.

In 2020, the district attempted to adjust this by raising the referendum to $547 per student, but voters ultimately turned it down, forcing the district into making some decisions to account for lost revenue.

Luckily, the district did a good job in balancing that out, but the need still lingered. That’s what makes this news so welcome. Should these projections come to pass, then Austin might well enjoy increasing revenue once again.

However, it still doesn’t alleviate the need for increasing APS’ operating referendum. It’s important to realize that these numbers are projections based largely on current birth trends in the county that show a substantial rise, and will equate to larger kindergarten classes in the short term and increased class size in the long-term across the board.

This will also mean that infrastructure needs will need to be addressed as district needs arise, which will cost money and in turn warrants a raise in per student revenue, something we hope voters will see and in next possible opportunity will vote in favor of.