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Low enrollment might force Austin ISD to make budget cuts

Michael Minasi
Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde speaks with Araceoy Castro and Joel Agurre outside their home during an in-person push over the summer to get families to enroll in the district.

After seeing a continued dip in enrollment, Austin ISD is asking for feedback on its budget for next school year, which will likely include cuts.

School districts get money from the state based on how many students are enrolled; when fewer students enroll in a district, the district gets less money. AISD lost around $60 million this year. That prevented it from being able to give teachers and staff a 2% raise.

AISD Chief Financial Officer Eduardo Ramos said the district has relied on its savings account to help with extra costs caused by the pandemic, but it can't continue to do so.

The district lost thousands of students last school year because of the pandemic. It was hoping to see 77,331 students enrolled this year, but instead there were only 74,727.

AISD's director of enrollment, Alejandro Delgado, said earlier this month that he realizes it might take a few years to increase enrollment.

“COVID has really accelerated what was already happening around affordability, around parent choice, competition,” Delgado said. “That’s reality, and we’re going to work twice as hard, be more strategic and engage our communities more authentically.”

The district is asking for feedback from the AISD community about what its budget priorities should be. The feedback form is available until the end of January.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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