Enrollment Continues To Fall In Countys Public Schools
Written by Risa Polansky on August 24, 2006
By Risa Polansky
Enrollment in Miami-Dade County public schools continued to fall as the new school year opened last week – which is like to cost the district several million dollars in funding.
As of Friday, the last day of the first week of the 2006-07 school year, 351,359 students are enrolled, said John Schuster, media relations director for the district. At this time last year, he said, 359,095 students were enrolled and a year earlier, 363,000.
Due to the enrollment decline, the Legislature granted the district $6 million less this year than the $135 million officials requested.
Rep. Marco Rubio, R-Coral Gables, speaker-designate of the House of Representatives, said in an interview earlier this month that he does not think the state is under-funding the district. Other districts, especially ones along the Interstate 4 corridor in Central Florida, are growing and will need a larger share of state dollars, he said.
Mr. Schuster said the district is prepared to make due with less money.
"We see state funds that come in per student," he said. "Of course we’ll see reduced funding, but we make adjustments as far as where we need services."
Less money means fewer teachers and bus drivers in areas with fewer students, he said.
The enrollment decline is helping facilities catch up to the needs of the student population, and school board members speculate they will eliminate overcrowding by 2010 with their aggressive building plan.
Mr. Schuster said the continuing decline might end soon. "Right now, we’re seeing a trend where our enrollment is dropping, but it’s very likely we could see rises of the same proportion if not greater," he said.
Mr. Schuster said the district has grown in the past as a result of turmoil in other countries. Three years ago, political issues in Venezuela caused a large influx of students to the area, he said. The district updated its Refugee Emergency Contingency Plan this month "directly as a response to recent developments in Cuba."
The district developed the plan in 1987 as a response to an influx of foreign students, Mr. Schuster said. Newest amendments include updated communications tactics for handling issues in the district and with the public, strategies for dealing with health issues such as vaccinations and procedures for handling staffing needs, he said.
"Miami tends to be a hub of the Western hemisphere," Mr. Schuster said. "Because of the dynamic nature of Miami and the way we experience growth – it comes in waves – it’s very possible we could have more students in the near future."