24 July 2006

It's Been Swell...But The Swellin's Gone Down

As of May 1, here was our district student enrollment:
  • k: 713
  • 1: 847
  • 2: 843
  • 3: 908
  • 4: 883
  • 5: 968
  • 6: 893
  • 7: 972
  • 8: 1084
  • 9: 1129
  • 10: 1102
  • 11: 1019
  • 12: 979
As you can see, we have our largest numbers at the high school level, but that swell isn't going to last for very long. When you graduate 979 from the system the same year that only 713 enter, there are going to be some issues down the line. At an average class size of 25, you're already talking 10 fewer elementary teachers per grade level.

People just aren't makin' 'em like they used to. Kids, that is. Family sizes are smaller and the birth rate is slowing down. The numbers of pre-K children in the area are also much less than they were 10 years ago. That, coupled with housing prices that only retirees and/or "empty nesters" can afford doesn't make for a rosy financial forecast for the district. There really isn't much we can do about either of these things---we can only plan accordingly for smaller classes.

What will this mean? Fewer teachers for one...and fewer schools for another. Every school needs a kitchen staff, transportation, custodial and secretarial support, utilities, and more. Closing one or two schools is a significant savings. These closures do mean an impact on jobs. The district is hoping that attrition in one form or another will open up enough places for those with continuing contracts to be employed.

Things must be similar elsewhere. The district anticipates 30 new hires at the district orientation. Twenty have been hired so far---and not a single one of them is a teacher who is new to the profession. Considering that 20% of my job with the district next year is to support newly minted teachers, it's not looking like I'll have much to do. I doubt that the remaining 10 spots will all be filled by n00bs...not if there are experienced (and good) teachers being squeezed out of jobs elsewhere. This seems to be the case so far. Meanwhile, I doubt the district will be handing out any continuing contracts to new staff...and I know that HR was delighted this year to extend leaves of absence and sabbaticals for staff who were away this year because it meant fewer headaches in trying to find them spots to have upon return. It's only a temporary stay, of course. I don't think I'd want to be the last one hired in this district. You'd be dusting off the resume fairly quickly.

Anyone out there feeling swell?


Anonymous said...

Ah, but this only sets up the real question: will budgets (and therefore taxes) go down as enrollment goes down?

I bet not.

Stephen said...

So, for a ten plus year swath, there won't be any new teachers. Will that mean that at some point there will be a teacher deficit due to a clump of retirement? If so, when? If a 20% change in capacity causes this much damage, perhaps the system is fragile.

Anonymous said...

Why would budgets and taxes go down with declining enrollment? Many of the expenses in education are constant or rising despite enrollment numbers. As long as a building is open, it needs to be heated, cooled and repaired, whether 100 or 300 children attend there. And I've never seen an administrator yet who started a new job for less money than his/her predecessor. Don't you wish their compensation was tied to enrollment?

The Science Goddess said...

Considering that property values continue to increase here, taxes will likely do the same; however, in terms of levies funded by property taxes, the district can only collect the amount of money asked for in the levy. If property values rise and we collect the amount in 2.5 years instead of 4, then real estate owners don't pay any of those taxes during the last 1.5 years of the levy.

Costs are definitely going to increase. There are more SPED kids to school (very expensive!), fuel costs are rising, and there are who knows how many more unfunded mandates from the feds on the horizon.

Some budgets are going to have to decrease or go away---this district is looking very hard at co-curricular areas and programs we've been able to "protect" in previous years.

Stephen, you're also right---we're fragile. Actually, I'm worried about becoming "inbred," with the lack of influx of new blood and ideas.

Every district in our area is in this boat. We're a little green from the rocking at this point...but it's obviously going to get worse before it gets better.

Anonymous said...

Your situation is interesting in that it is in complete contrast to my own district which continues to swell. However, swelling enrollment has its own problems--our classrooms are overcrowded, and we cannot keep up by adding additions For ex., my own school just opened a new building last year to eliminate mobile classrooms and now, due to increased enrollment, we will once again have mobile classrooms this year. Also, we just can't find enough GOOD teachers.

I'm in an Atlanta suburb and though our problem is different, our concern is the same. Lack of money makes our swelling enrollment a race that we cannot win. And finding and keeping good teachers becomes more and more challenging as new hires are forced to deal with more and more budget cuts, even as expectations for student and teacher performance continue to rise. I am very concerned about the impact of situations such as ours on the quality of education our students receive. It's a scary time.

Anonymous said...

We are already feeling the burst of the swell. Our swell happened during the Silicon Valley Boom. Our district built a new school because of the overcrowding. 12 years later, we closed two of our four schools and are still seeing declining enrollment. For new teachers, the only way to get a job is through retirement attrition. It's tough.

As a parent, it's scary too. We are facing such a decline that our junior high just became a middle school and they are still worried about the quality of education available there. Our elementary school has dedicated PE teachers and a dedicated Science teacher for the upper graders -- how long can we keep those programs up at our tiny school?

Will I get hired only to lose my job in a couple of years -- a victim of declining enrollment?