An article in today's Palm Beach Post ponders that. The County school system has 5,000 less students than anticipated. I'm as clueless as school officials as to why but I got a question. Does this mean I'll get a rebate on my property taxes? In my dreams only.
Open Post- Indepundit
Principal Maureen Werner doesn't remember a time when Limestone Creek Elementary had fewer than 1,000 students. She knew something was up when school district demographers estimated she would have 990 this year.
Only 940 showed up.
One teacher was cut. Another had to go from specializing in math and working with many students to having her own class. Werner also lost employees she was used to having because she had so many students, such as an extra person to answer phones.
Overall, the Palm Beach County School District expected enrollment to grow this year by more than 5,000 students. Most of them never showed up.
The district has grown by more than 5,100 students each of the past four years. But only 477 more children are enrolled in county public schools this year, according to an official count of students last week.
The overestimate will cost the district $14.1 million in state money. The only people who will be hired for the rest of the year are teachers and classroom aides. The district has frozen spending on textbooks and other classroom materials; that budget alone is taking a $1.8 million hit.
Werner and district planners are puzzled.
"My take on it is that people really can't afford to live in Jupiter and Tequesta any more and they're cashing out and moving," Werner said. "Development is going up. I just don't know who's moving here."
Last spring, based on previous growth, it was estimated that 178,362 students would cram the nearly 200 schools in the county. But only 173,236 enrolled, at the same time the district planned to build 14 new schools in the next five years. Those numbers may include some of the 200 students who moved here from areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The single-year dip in enrollment isn't enough to derail the district's ambitious construction plans, Facilities Management Chief Joe Sanches said.
The unexplained lack of growth isn't unique to Palm Beach County. Broward County schools have 1,100 fewer students than last year.
Palm Beach County schools' original theory was that housing costs were pushing students north, where prices are lower, Budget Director Mike Burke told school board members last week.
But St. Lucie County has about 1,000 fewer students than expected, and Martin County also grew by less than predicted.
"All of the data was pointing to a continuation of growth," said Judith Brennan, the Palm Beach County district's school boundaries and demographics manager. "The 477 would have seemed like a number that you pulled out of the air. There is no specific set of data that tells us there are fewer families out there than there were last year."
For the past three years, demographers' estimates have been within 500 students of the actual number.