Prediction for Davis schools’ enrollment to decline

Prediction for Davis schools’ enrollment to decline

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Starting conversations about Davis’ high housing prices, the future of DJUSD

Due to lower birth rates, rising housing costs and the mobility of families, Davis Demographics & Planning, Inc. forecasted a gradual decline in enrollment numbers for Davis Joint Unified School District in the coming decade.

At the school board meeting on March 21, Davis Demographics’ annual report and presentation projected that the enrollment in 2028-2029 will range from 8,222 to 8,330 students, lower than the 8,580 students in 2018-2019. The reported enrollment numbers inform the school board of its budget, as funding from the state of California is dependent on the number of students in each district. The district maintained enrollment at around 8,500 students in past years by filling open spots with students living outside of the district or out-of-boundary.

“If we have a class that has a capacity to have 25 students and we only have 24 students in that classroom, we are potentially losing the money that we could have if we filled that seat,” said Maria Clayton, the public information officer for DJUSD. “Similar to an airline, you pay to send the airplane across, but if all the seats are not filled, you’re not optimizing your ability to get money for that flight.”

As housing prices continue to increase, more families are moving away from Davis and younger families with children are less inclined to move in. Residential students have declined by 580 students from the 2008-2009 to 2018-2019 school year, requiring an average increase of 79 interdistrict transfers each year, according to the Davis Demographics 2019-20 Report.

“We’ve been really fortunate that we have high quality programming that people who live in other places are attracted to,” Clayton said.

According to the report, local birth rates decreased from 530 average births per year from  2007 to 2011 to 503 average births per year from 2012 to 2016. In general, Californian women are having children later due to economic or personal factors and more availability of birth control, according to an article by the SF Chronicle. The decreased number of births could mean fewer students entering kindergarten each year.

The Davis Demographics 2018-19 Presentation, which measures the percentage of families moving in and out of the district, featured the net retention rate for mobility at 55 percent. The positive value indicates that more families are moving into rather than out of the district, but the rate was lower than in previous years.

A decline in overall enrollment would require the board to reevaluate its budget, possibly resulting in programs being cut, less pay for teachers, larger class sizes and, most drastically, closure of campuses.

“There’s only so much revenue that’s available, and the only way to change our outcome is to lower expenditures and raise our revenue,” Clayton said. “That is the struggle or challenge the board of education faces on how to make sure our financing is matching what kind of programs and expenditures that we have.”

While low birth rates and expensive housing has affected California, neighboring states face increasing student populations. Julia Ann Easley, a news and media relations specialist for UC Davis, expressed the difficulty in predicting future UC Davis admissions with lower local enrollment. The number of UC Davis applicants and enrollees have steadily increased in the past 10 years.

“UC Davis receives thousands of applicants’ applications from across California, and across the country and around the world,” Easley said.

Recently, both UC Davis and the City of Davis have contributed to more affordable housing with the approved expansion of West Village Student Housing and the Davis Live housing project, among others. The report indicated an increase of 100 single-family detached units in certain areas and multiplied by the SFD K-6 student yield factor, 0.265, it may increase enrollment by 26.5 students. As more UC Davis students are in need of housing, and more families depart from the district, the Davis housing crisis is in need of relief.

“The quality of Davis schools is a benefit to our community,” Clayton said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that our schools continue to be attractive and as successful for our students as possible. It’s really important for the community to understand the challenges faced in our school finance situation right now.”

Written by: Renee Hoh — city@theaggie.org

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