Enrollment decline will cost Unified School District - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Enrollment decline will cost Unified School District

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(WMC-TV) - School leaders say enrollment for the combined Memphis and Shelby County school system is taking a hard hit. The result? Less money for the new Unified School District.

The unified school system is already facing a $157 million shortfall and school leaders fear it will hurt the classroom. Now, adding salt to the wound, there is a drop in student enrollment.

"There has been a significant change in the enrollment that's going to be coming to this combined district," said Shelby County School Board Commissioner David Pickler, who says the decline means less money. "Any school system's funding comes directly from the enrollment."

Pickler says enrollment is declining at a rate that still requires the district to provide maximum resources.

"You still have the responsibility of hiring a teacher, to heat and cool that school building, to provide the bus transportation, to provide the nutrition services," he explained.

In this merged district report, the Memphis and Shelby County Planning Departments say combined enrollment has dropped 7 percent since 2008.

"Every time a student leaves the district, whether for a charter or a state school or to actually vote with their feet and leave the district, that takes away dollars," said Pickler.

Planners also shared another scenario that projects charter and state schools will drain the unified schools' enrollment further.

"As we look forward to fiscal year 2014, we're looking at an 8,000 student decline just in this next year," Pickler explained.

That would mean student enrollment will have declined 16 percent from 159,377 students in 2008 to 133,341 in 2014.

Pickler continued, "Just a couple of years ago, you were looking at a combined district with as many as 157,000 children. Now, you're looking at numbers that could be as low as 133,000."

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