According to a report by Applied Economics published on March 30, 2021, the decline of enrolled Scottsdale Unified School District students will continue for the projected future.
The report states that SUSD only serves 16,793 students of the 31,085 school-age children zoned to attend Scottsdale Unified District schools. This implies an in-district capture rate of only 54% of SUSD boundary students. The other 4,644 students (21.7%) in SUSD come from outside of the district.
As of Sept. 10, the report shows a decrease in enrollment of 800 students (a 3.6% decline).
The average decline over the last decade is about 1.2%, the recent 3.6% decline can possibly be due to COVID. The decline could also be due to the declining test scores reported by the SUSD Governing President on June 30, where the district reported that only 60% of its 3rd grade students were proficient in reading.
The overall decline and deflection from Scottsdale Unified School District can also be due to competition offered by charter and private schools in and around the district, and or by the changes in the population make-up.
Competition offers choice. Choice offers scrutiny and comparison. There are 21 charter schools in SUSD district boundaries serving 7,800 K-12 students.
During this same period when Scottsdale Unified School District saw a decline in enrollment, charter school enrollment in the district has increased by 3,700 K-12.
Scottsdale boasts some of the top-ranking public charter schools in the world, according to the 2019-20 OECD Test for Schools (based on PISA) — Basis Independent schools are ranked No. 1 in the world.
If the choice is better, people tend to choose the better choice.
There are now also 27 private schools in or around SUSD with enrollment totaling 4,400.
Out‐of‐district enrollment has grown by 760 since 2010/11, while in‐district enrollment dropped by about 5,300 students during the same period.
The decline in student enrollment in SUSD is projected to continue the decline until 2030 and beyond. Only about 63% of the kindergarten through 8th-grade students from within the district’s boundary attend the school designated for their place of residence, while about 80% of the 9th through 12th-grade students attend the designated school for their area of residence.
Although these stats show slightly more encouraging enrollment numbers for high school, it is important to note that, at the high school level, four of the five schools in SUSD are expected to experience significant enrollment decreases over the next 10 years.
About 12,800 new housing units are projected over the next 10 years, resulting in a population increase of about 17,400 persons in 11,400 new households. However although Scottsdale’s population will increase, the population per household is expected to remain low since a significant share of the total development potential is projected to be in the form of multifamily units.
The decline in the school‐age population in existing housing combined with declining capture rates will likely offset all of the enrollment growth that would otherwise be associated with the creation of over 11,000 new households.
The intelligent growth of Scottsdale should include a plan to fill our local public schools that have already been built and invested in by the taxpayer. Our elected school board should devise a plan to prevent further decline in SUSD’s student enrollment.
As long as choice exists, SUSD will need to be centrally focused on devising a superior plan to increase enrollment and serve more than 54% of its student population.
Editor’s Note: Conay Huizar is a resident of Scottsdale.