Birmingham city schools lose more than 850 students and more than $5 million in state funding(October 18, 2008) B'ham News

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Schools lose 868 students, $5.5 million in state funds

MARIE LEECH
News staff writer
Birmingham city schools' enrollment dropped by 868 students this year, and the system will lose more than $5.5 million in state funding next year as a result, new attendance reports show.
School systems submitted their 20-days-after-Labor-Day attendance reports and the state will certify them next week. That official enrollment number - called "average daily membership" - is what the state uses to fund schools. Growing schools receive more state money as a result, but schools with declining enrollment lose funding for teachers, principals, assistant principals, counselors and librarians.
Birmingham's report shows enrollment is down to 27,525. In early September, a preliminary enrollment report showed the system might lose fewer than 500 students. At that point, enrollment was down 433.
But even the higher number submitted this week represents a slowdown in Birmingham's annual enrollment losses. Last year, the system lost 1,343 students.
Meanwhile, Shelby County schools' enrollment increased 627 students to a total of 27,115, bringing that system within 410 students of overtaking Birmingham. The two are the second- and third-largest school systems in the Birmingham area.
Jefferson County schools, the area's largest school system, gained 74 students for an enrollment of 36,254.
Hoover picked up 145 students, bringing its enrollment to 12,542, and Bessemer gained 108, bringing enrollment to 4,410.
Shelby County schools saw the biggest gain, following a decade-long trend.
"Shelby County and Madison County are identified as two of the fastest-growing areas in the state," said Craig Pouncey, assistant superintendent of administrative and financial services for the state Department of Education. "This really puts a strain on a local school system because, first and foremost, the district must make provisions this year to include the new students in their instructional program but won't receive full funding for them until next year's allocation."
Bracing for deeper cuts:
State funding is based on the previous year's enrollment, so those who experienced major gains must use local money to cover the extra expenses such as teachers, extra classrooms and extra buses, Pouncey said. School systems receive about $6,500 per student in state funding.
"This comes at a time where we are anticipating a reduction in next year's budget, higher utility costs and a general slowdown in collections of both state and local taxes for education purposes," Pouncey said. "It really puts a strain on the district's resources."
Shelby County schools Superintendent Randy Fuller said district officials had projected gaining 600 to 700 students this year.
"We were prepared for it, so we made arrangements in our budget for the growth," Fuller said.
Other area school systems experienced small to moderate gains in enrollment, except Fairfield and Midfield city schools, which lost a few students this year, and Trussville city schools, which had 4,118 students both last year and this year.
Birmingham's loss of students comes as no surprise to educators; the system has lost an average of about 1,000 a year for more than a decade. Officials are happy the trend has slowed.
The system lost more than $8.7 million in state funding this year as a result of losing 1,343 students last year.
"The enrollment projection report done by Gude Management Group last year predicted our enrollment would be 27,124 this year," said Interim Superintendent Barbara Allen. "So even though the loss of enrollment is not good news, we are happy that the drop was not as great as had been projected."

MARIE LEECH
News staff writer