I’ve heard my mom say on more than one occasion that people come in all shapes and sizes. The same is true for school districts, too. Rebecca Jones at Education News Colorado provides some interesting insights with a story focused on Colorado’s smallest, and steadily shrinking, school district: Agate. When you see the numbers and the trends that tell the story, you can see why the “State’s smallest district ponders future”:
A decade ago, enrollment in Agate peaked at 132. Since then, the decline has been steady. And like many small school districts across Colorado struggling with declining enrollment, the prospects for remaining a viable independent district grow slimmer with each departing child.
To serve its 26 students – 12 in high school, five in middle school and nine in elementary school – Agate has a nearly $1.2 million budget for the 2010-11 school year. More than 70 percent of that comes from the state, which sets aside a relatively generous per-pupil allotment for rural school districts, and lets a district with declining enrollment average out its head count over four years, so a sudden drop in enrollment won’t cause quite so catastrophic a loss of revenue.
That means Agate is actually collecting state funds this year as though it were serving 51 students rather than the 37 it projected it would have, the 33 it opened the year with or the 26 it has now.
You were doing some back-of-the-envelope math there, weren’t you? So was I. At the beginning of the current school year, Agate’s budget stood at roughly $36,000 per student. Now it stands closer to $46,000 per student. It’s easy to make light of the problem, but how many other districts would experience a 20 percent drop in student enrollment just because the economy forced a couple families to move away? That would be a loss of nearly 1,000 students in an average-sized Colorado school district or more than 17,000 students in the state’s largest district: Jeffco. Continue Reading »