Over the last 12 years, Central Texas has changed dramatically. The secret about what a great place this is to live is out, and we have experienced tremendous growth across every county throughout the region. We take pride in this growth as it speaks to a strong and diverse business environment and a high quality of life. However, our schools have struggled to keep pace with the sheer numbers of children and rapid changes to the student population – changes that require different support structures for students and teachers alike.
A snapshot of demographic changes to our student population over the last twelve years shows:
- We have 39 percent more students in our public schools, almost twice the student growth rate of the state overall
- The percentage of students receiving special education services in our region has grown, while the state’s rate has decreased by more than 10 percent
- School readiness for our youngest learners in numeracy, literacy, language acquisition and social emotional learning, dropped by 12% points from 53% readiness to 41% a year ago and has only recovered by 2% points. We predict an additional 7000 children could potentially not be on grade level in 3rd grade, if they do not receive timely interventions.
- The percent of low-income students has steadily decreased over the last five years, however, most low-income students are now eligible for free lunch, which speaks to the deepening of poverty for families in Central Texas.
- A steady increase in the cost of housing, transportation and living expenses in Austin’s urban core and surrounding area is forcing low-income families and individuals to move further and further out of Austin. This suburbanization of poverty brings with it new and growing challenges to districts as they try to provide services to meet the needs of incoming low-income students.
- Our English Language Learner (ELL) population has grown by 76 percent. Some Central Texas districts now serve five times the number of ELLs as ten years ago.
- Significant growth has occurred in all grades over the last decade, with Hispanic students driving enrollment growth by 36% in overall growth.
The figure below illustrates changes in our low income student population across Central Texas over the last decade.