Enrollments declining at south, central and Phoenix schools
Arizona Republic
Sept.14, 2007


Betty Reid

The declining enrollment at some central and south Phoenix schools has elementary school districts worried.

For a few years, the districts enjoyed growth as more Latino families flooded into their districts. Now, for a variety of reasons, some of the elementary school districts are seeing an exodus of students.

In recent years they blamed losses to the high cost of housing. Rents were going up in even the most modest of homes. In some cases, inexpensive housing was replaced by pricey condos and apartments.

Now, they're wondering how the new employee sanctions bill will affect student population, which is directly tied to school funding. The bill signed into law by the governor in July penalizes employers who hire undocumented workers. It takes effect in January but some undocumented workers and their families are already moving to Mexico or other states.

The losses also might be tied to a low demand for construction workers as a result of a declining housing market, school officials say.

Isaac, Roosevelt, and Cartwright Elementary school districts are among the districts that have lost students this fall.

Cartwright this week had 19,872 students compared to 20,400 students last year.

School officials blame the 528-drop on the employee sanctions bill, people moving out of the district and a low birth rate.

Cartwright Superintendent Mike Martinez made adjustments in kindergarten classes where the district suffered the most losses.

Isaac School District lost 210 students.

"We all have seen a decrease in the number of students in the districts in the urban areas," said Abedon Fimbres, Isaac spokesperson. "We are not sure why."

Roosevelt School District's Sept. 7 student count revealed 12,449 down from 12,742 last school year.

"We don't know why there is a 255 drop," said Lori Rieger, Roosevelt spokesperson. "There could be a lot of things such as charter schools. It's a cyclical thing for us. Our enrollment will be low at the beginning of the school year and balloon after the 100th day. The 255 students is not that low, that's typical for us."

For the last year, Phoenix Elementary School has been losing students - last year 200 and 250 the year before. But this year they were up 200 students but couldn't explain the reason for the increase.

Washington Elementary School District officials said they have yet to see any change of its student population.

"We know that a large percentage of our students are from families with a primary home language other than English, but there is no way for the District to know if there will be an impact when the law goes into effect," said Carol Donaldson, a Washington Elementary spokesperson.

Osborn, Alhambra and Creighton elementary school district superintendents could not be reached for a comment.

The loss of students is mostly at the lower grades.

Phoenix Union High School District is up 435 students, but it also has a new high school in Laveen and several specialty high schools that started up this year.