Archive for Saturday, November 3, 2012

Actual enrollment patterns not matching forecasts

November 3, 2012


Actual vs. Estimated Enrollment at Lawrence Elementary Schools. Source: Actual counts from Kansas State Department of Education. Projections from RSP and Associates.

Actual vs. Estimated Enrollment at Lawrence Elementary Schools. Source: Actual counts from Kansas State Department of Education. Projections from RSP and Associates.

Lawrence school district officials say they are firm in their decision not to close or consolidate any elementary schools, despite the fact that enrollment projections that were used to justify that decision earlier this year have so far turned out to be inaccurate.

“I am convinced that consolidation is not the ideal route for our district to take,” school board president Vanessa Sanburn said Thursday. “I recognize it is a potential solution. I just don’t believe it’s the best one.”

Earlier this year, the school board backed away from plans to close or consolidate certain grade schools in central and east Lawrence. Those schools included Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill.

That decision to back away from consolidation was based on a report from a community task force the board had appointed in 2011. The task force’s report noted, among other things, that new enrollment forecasts showed the district overall would grow faster over the next five years than had previously been estimated, and that the growth would be concentrated in the very neighborhoods that were targeted for school closure and consolidation.

Those projections, from the consulting firm RSP and Associates, showed enrollment would grow more than twice as fast in those attendance zones over the next five years compared with other parts of the district.

But in the first new school year since those projections came out, the forecast has proved to be inaccurate.

According to official head counts taken Sept. 20 and reported by the Kansas State Department of Education, RSP over-estimated this year’s enrollment at four of the six schools slated for consolidation, and under-estimated enrollment at six of the eight other elementary schools in Lawrence.

Rob Schwarz, who heads the firm and who conducted the analysis for the district, said he is currently looking into the new enrollment numbers to understand why the actual head counts differed from the projections.

Superintendent Rick Doll said Schwarz will address those questions when he appears at one of the two board meetings scheduled in November.

“They were actually a little bit under-estimating in terms of what we were going to grow,” Doll said of the overall numbers. I think we actually grew (a little) more than they thought we were going to. But it wasn’t necessarily in the areas they had projected. We have talked to RSP about that, in addition to some information that has come out about some additional housing developments that have started on the west side of town. That’s changed as well.”

The Lawrence school board approved a contract with RSP in October 2011 to conduct an analysis specifically for the task force working on the consolidation plan. The contract was for $27,500, according to minutes of that meeting.

RSP’s report was released in January and it played a big part in the task force’s recommendation not to consolidate any grade schools but, instead, to upgrade and renovate all of the existing buildings.

“Last year, it was thought that enrollment growth would be concentrated in the newer neighborhoods of west Lawrence,” the report stated, “but RSP Consulting now projects that growth will be concentrated in and around the schools slated for consolidation and in Lawrence’s south and southwest areas.”

The school board eventually accepted that recommendation and is now in the process of drawing up plans for a bond election in the spring to fund upgrades and renovations at the six “core” elementary schools, as well as facility improvements and technology upgrades throughout the district.

Sanburn, however, said the enrollment projections were not the only factor in convincing the board not to pursue consolidation.

For one thing, she said, much of the space that was considered “excess capacity” in those buildings has since been taken up since the closure of Wakarusa Valley School in 2011. In addition, Lawrence is now providing all-day kindergarten at every elementary school, which has also removed excess space.

But another reason, she said, is that the six schools targeted for closure and consolidation also have some of the largest populations of low-income and minority students, and those are the neighborhoods where the district tries to maintain smaller class sizes.

“And so even if we consolidated, we could get some benefit from having larger class sizes and saving money on staff,” Sanburn said. “But because of our commitment that we’ve made to lowering class size ratios for lower-income students, a lot of that savings would be negated by hiring more staff to deal with larger populations.”


Steve Jacob 4 years, 11 months ago

They paid a consultant to prove their point, and make up numbers so schools would not close. That's what they do. Did you see the drop at LHS? East side is losing families.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

All neighborhoods in Lawrence have new families as is evident by the new housing developments on the East Side of Lawrence,Kansas. Those who claim to know otherwise do not know Lawrence,Kansas or have not been paying attention.

What political special interest group is messing with our system? It is the BIG GOVERNMENT of Sam Brownback that which is wanting to turn over public education to private industry.

Then Lawrence,Kansas and the school board must realize WE are funding the demise of public education by using K-12 curriculum for the virtual school program. Bill Bennet,Jeb Bush and Neil Bush designed this curriculum/software and are raking in an estimated $500,000,000 a year from the nations public education tax dollar cookie jars. Their sales reps are all over the country.

These people are also cheerleaders of supply side economics aka facism aka complete corporate takeover of our tax dollars = multi-trillion dollar entitlements.

Bill Bennett,Jeb Bush and Neil Bush could easily turn that half billion dollars into trillions of tax dollars by way of school vouchers and eliminating public school districts as such. Each of these individuals and their partners have been quite vocal at painting Public Schools among the "evil entitlements".

Another product from this crew is No Child Left Behind which was designed to prove Public Education is a failure to further support their plan to takeover public schools in America.

Voucher systems are worth trillions of dollars to this group. They will then provide the textbooks of their choice and the content of their choice which means parents will NEED to spend a lot of time reviewing the content.

Is Sam Brownback savvy to all of the above? I would predict that the answer is yes. He is not the most honest politician on the planet in my estimation. Bennett,Bush and Bush are pals in this endeavor to take over all of our tax dollars. Just goes to show that tax dollars are not evil in spite of their rhetoric.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes there are a lot of new families on the east side who will have school age children in the next 5 years. More are moving into beautiful older east Lawrence.

Can the Brownback admin be trusted? Lord no!

kuguardgrl13 4 years, 11 months ago

Yes, Lawrence is still growing to the west. However, it has been stated in previous articles that we are still growing to the east. Not all families are drawn to the subdivisions and big box stores of West Lawrence. I know several parents who 1) wanted to buy a historic house and 2) were alarmed when they were threatening to close Cordley before their son had started Kindergarten. You have to look at not only how many current elementary students are in an area but also how many preschoolers there are. They will be starting school in the next few years and need a place to go. Parents are going to buy or rent where they can afford (we hope), and USD 497 has to work with the projections they are given.

kshiker 4 years, 11 months ago

So we are subsidizing small classes at the older schools while class sizes keep getting bigger in the newer schools? What idiot predicted that new growth would take place in central and east Lawrence? Everyone knows that Lawrence is still growing to the west.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

In Milwaukee, vouchers have created separate and unequal school systems. The education of students with special educational needs is just one example. The percentage of special ed students in Milwaukee’s public schools is about 20 percent. At the private voucher schools, the comparable figure is less than 2 percent.

“All together, the 102 voucher schools are serving a special education population that is equal to what the Milwaukee Public Schools serves in just one of its district schools: Hamilton High School,” Milwaukee superintendent Gregory Thornton noted last year.

Vouchers were promoted in the 1990s as a way to help poor black children escape failing schools. But that rhetoric has disappeared in Milwaukee. Voucher supporters have expanded vouchers to middle-income families and have made clear they want to make vouchers available to all, including millionaires. Vouchers for poor children was just a first step.

For more than twenty years, I have listened to the voucher movement’s seductive rhetoric of “choice” and “parent power.” If I didn’t know better, I might proclaim, “Sign me up today!”

Milwaukee, however, has more than two decades of reality-based vouchers. The lesson from this heartland city?

Vouchers are a vehicle to funnel tax dollars into private schools. Using the false promise of “choice,” they are an unabashed abandonment of public education and of our hopes for a vibrant democracy. Barbara Miner

---- Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the New York Times to the Milwaukee Journal. The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Selling out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

When I hear Mitt Romney’s seductive rhetoric about school choice, I think back to the beginning of Milwaukee’s voucher program — the country’s largest and oldest voucher initiative.

In particular, I remember Nov. 14, 1990. On that day, I learned an important lesson on the difference between rhetoric and Sunset Parkerpix via flickr

I dropped my two daughters off at day care and began my job at he Milwaukee Journal. The city editor, a gray-haired Irishman who filled every stereotype of the gruff newshound, called me over. I was to do an on-the-scenes report at a private school receiving publicly funded tuition vouchers.

Like most people, I hadn’t given much thought to this new and unique initiative. Vouchers had been promoted as “school choice” for poor black kids, and seemed a worthwhile experiment.

I grabbed my reporter’s notebook and headed to the school. I sat in on some classes, which seemed little different than at schools across the city. But teachers approached me in the hallways with vague stories of turmoil and advised I attend a parent meeting the following evening.

I went to the meeting, only to be blocked by a somewhat beefy lawyer. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was a private school and I would not be allowed to attend the meeting. (no matter that tax dollars were funding the school)

I huffed and I puffed, but the lawyer was right. Private schools do not have to follow Wisconsin’s open meetings and records laws.

I never found out what happened at the meeting, although within a few weeks the teaching staff was slashed by a third and the principal was gone.

I did, however, learn the first of many lessons about school vouchers. In essence, vouchers are a mechanism to funnel public dollars into private schools. They are an abandonment of both public education and our country’s democratic ideals.

---- Barbara Miner has been a reporter, writer, and editor for almost forty years, writing for publications ranging from the New York Times to the Milwaukee Journal. The former managing editor of Rethinking Schools, she has co-edited numerous books on education, including Selling out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 11 months ago

"So we are subsidizing small classes at the older schools while class sizes keep getting bigger in the newer schools?" How is the westside subsidizing smaller classes anywhere?

Eastside tax dollars have been subsidizing reckless westside expansion for thirty years. But what about crowded classes on the westside? Who forgot the schools?

Blame that on the previous BOE's or better yet blame that on the city commissions and developers who do NOT want to provide land or money for the public schools.

After all it is the developers demanding the zones to build houses. Therefore the developers must provide land and money for schools that attract new residents which support their large profit making endeavors.

Or developers could fund additional classrooms on existing property. NOT TEMPORARY BUILDINGS!

weeslicket 4 years, 11 months ago

  1. the future numbers are "predictions", folks.
  2. for this year (2012-2013), at least, the actual numbers were calculated on september 20. FYI: typically, more students continue to arrive in lawrence as the school year continues (you just don't get any more funds allocated for them). a september 20 head count is a low-ball number for the state. 3a. even so: the numbers for this school year were "off" by 26 students for the "core" schools of central and east lawrence. that prediction was within 2% of the actual result. 3b. the numbers for this school year for the other elementaries were "off" by 27 students. that prediction was within 1% of the actual result.

  3. i think i'll not "wet" myself just yet.

irvan moore 4 years, 11 months ago

it seems like it would make sense for families with school age children to buy/rent houses in areas with room for their kids in the schools

Dawn Shew 4 years, 11 months ago

There are kids showing up every day at Kennedy, and those students are not on the Sept 20 rolls. I'm sure this is happening all over Lawrence.

Want to save money? Have more dollars for education in Lawrence? Try telling Brownback to stop slashing state revenues and robbing our children's future.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 11 months ago

A few years ago, another consultant group recommended closing Broken Arrow, because of declining enrollment. Now, Broken Arrow's enrollment is increasing 17%. The neighborhoods had aged and turned over. Younger families are moving in. Why is this concept so difficult to understand?

It makes more sense to maintain current facilities rather than closing schools and building new schools. Home buyers who choose a neighborhood that does not have a school can bus their children to existing schools. Closing schools challenges the strength of the neighborhood as it ages and renews.

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