I would imagine every public school district in Texas is experiencing similar difficulties since covid hit us in March of 2020. Lovejoy is no different, however we have some unique situations.
Lovejoy is consistently rated as one of the best school districts in the entire state of Texas, per the Texas Education Agency. That's the number one driving force behind why people are wanting to move to this area and that in itself has created some unique issues.
There are rumors floating out there about what's happening with Lovejoy and some are totally false. That's why I wanted to share the following press release from the Lovejoy School Board. I highlighted some things I found especially interesting.
Lovejoy School Board Brief
March 25, 2021
Lovejoy ISD is a school district of distinction and proud to offer educational experiences unlike any other in the State and even the Nation. Our academic excellence is not by chance but by design. The Lovejoy excellence is driven by hiring the very best teachers and staff, investing in their development, offering unique curriculum, programs and services above and beyond what traditional districts offer, and working collaboratively with our engaged and committed community. School districts throughout Texas are funded based on the average daily attendance (ADA) of students attending their district. Regardless of property values or how much you pay in taxes, Lovejoy ISD is only funded approximately $8,300 per student from the State. As shared in our Board of Trustees Special Meeting and Budget Workshop on March 25th, out of all 15 Collin County school districts, Lovejoy ISD is ranked 11th lowest in funding per student, but ranked #1 in academic performance. For this school year, Lovejoy ISD faces a budget shortfall and an anticipated shortfall for the 2021-2022 school year. Several factors led to the shortfall of our budget this year. For the current school year, Lovejoy ISD approved a budget based on the district’s projected growth established by our demographer in January of 2020. The demographer forecasted a total district enrollment of 4,406 students. For the past 18 years, Lovejoy has used the demographers' projections for budget planning and campus staffing with a high degree of confidence due to their historical accuracy.
Unfortunately, as we all know, COVID emerged in the spring of 2020 and changed school districts' trajectory throughout the Nation. As a result, Lovejoy ISD saw a decline in students who were previously enrolled and did not experience the projected student growth anticipated. Lovejoy realized a decline of approximately 200 students from what was budgeted for the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, COVID hampered our ability to generate other local revenue we rely upon such as summer enrichment camps, camp-out events, ticket sales, etc. as part of the annual operational budget. Additionally, due to the enrollment decline, Lovejoy ISD is no longer considered a “Fast Growth” district by the state. The state recognizes the top 25% fastest growing school districts in the state and provides a “Fast Growth” allotment. For Lovejoy, losing the “Fast Growth” designation reduces our state funding by ~ $1M. The shortfall generated by the decline of enrollment, loss of local revenue, and added COVID expenditures is roughly $3.1M out of a $44M balanced budget passed last year.
LISD recognized this shortfall in the fall of 2020 and, as a result, implemented a hiring freeze and reduced department and campus budgets by 15%. While there has been a lot of news about COVID assistance at the Federal and State level, LISD has only received around $11,000 in COVID relief funds. COVID reimbursements have been based on the amount of low socio-economic students the district is educating. Additionally, in December, the Texas Education Agency approved to extend a "Hold Harmless" provision for all school districts to help offset the effects of low enrollment and attendance due to COVID; however, Lovejoy ISD anticipates only receiving approximately $250,000. While this will help with the budget shortfall, Lovejoy is faced with looking at all options to both reduce expenses and raise revenue to offset the deficit. To address the shortfall for this budget year, LISD will utilize our Fund Balance to help cover the $3.1M 2020 - 2021 potential loss. However, looking at the continued budget shortfall for the 2021 - 2022 school year, we know we must look at drastically reducing expenses, correcting inefficiencies, and exploring opportunities to increase revenue in order to balance the upcoming year budget which is currently projected with a $5M shortfall. The district has been and continues to explore all options for reducing expenditures while protecting the core essentials of the programs that ensure excellent and enriched student experiences unique to Lovejoy ISD. Unfortunately, another financial concern is in pending legislation both in the Texas House and Senate. There are currently proposed companion bills that will prevent Lovejoy ISD from charging tuition for any student transferring into Lovejoy ISD. Our current Lovejoy Scholars program not only allows the district to realize ADA state funding for each student, but raises approximately $1M in tuition revenue. With a high likelihood we will no longer be able to legally charge tuition, LISD is anticipating a $6M shortfall for the 2021-2022 school year without instituting programmatic changes.
The most reliable and predictable potential revenue option is to increase Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding from the state by maximizing campus and classroom utilization through expanding Lovejoy Scholars with limited application transfer students. Lovejoy ISD would benefit from ADA state funding for accepting a specified number of students, based on the number of empty and available seats per grade level, who meet our rigorous academic, attendance, behavior, and code of conduct standards. This additional ADA state funding will help ensure Lovejoy ISD continues to offer all of our students the programs of distinction our community expects and deserves, of which, has helped build our strong academic and graduate profile reputation across the state. The district will include 265 limited application enrollment students in the 2021-2022 budgeted revenue, and will not exceed the Board-approved cap of 350 total students. 265 students shrinkages the $6M shortfall by approximately one-third. To appropriately balance the budget for the remaining $4M shortfall, we know that we must also look at efficiencies in staffing throughout the district while minimizing the impact on our classrooms. During the March 25th Board meeting, Trustees declared a programmatic change that will enable the district to identify programmatic areas that may reduce staffing in specified areas. This includes looking at all programs offered within administration offices as well as campuses. During the April 12th Board meeting, recognized programs will be officially listed for reduction. Additionally, as local housing prices continue to climb, we are experiencing a decline in student enrollment at the lower grade levels compared to our graduating senior classes. This decline is primarily a result of younger families, with elementary aged students being priced out of the Lovejoy housing market as they are unable to afford homes within the district. Therefore, LISD is exploring how to efficiently leverage underutilized campus capacities, specifically at the elementary level.
During Thursday's board meeting, the district shared an efficiency opportunity to maximize campus capacities by restructuring the current Kindergarten through fourth-grade program. The proposal would realign the elementary grade level configuration to create an Early Childhood campus, K-2 campus, and 3-4 campus structure. Creating an Early Childhood campus would allow the district to expand the current Pre-K program and the Leopard daycare program that is licensed under a different state agency structure and does allow for an additional revenue stream for the district. Additionally, the instructional benefits of providing a K-2 campus and 3-4 campus will streamline instructional programs and provide increased teacher support and collaboration within grade levels. If the new structure were to be implemented, Lovejoy ISD would also provide shuttle transportation between campuses for the convenience of parents during morning drop-off and afternoon pickup.·