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AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin Achieve Public Schools, which operates four tuition-free charters, laid off 24 staff members, including teachers, on Friday partially because of decreased attendance, according to its founder.
The founder, John Armbrust, said Tuesday that leadership anticipates financial shortfalls because of that lower-than-expected average daily attendance and other factors.
In Texas, enrollment and attendance rates determine the amount of state funding to charters and school districts. The cost-cutting comes after lawmakers did not increase funding to public and charter schools. That followed a marathon of special legislative sessions where the additional funding was tied to a program that would have allowed state dollars to go to private schools, otherwise known as education savings accounts.
“District leadership had hoped for an increase in state funding for K-12 public schools, as funding levels have remained stagnant since 2019, but had to make the unfortunate decisions about staff reductions after realizing state funding increases would not occur,” Armbrust said.
Before the pandemic, Austin Achieve reported having a 96.5% average daily attendance rate. The charter system says it has dropped nearly 3%.
“Like every school that I know of, [we] are still seeing an uptick in Chronic Absenteeism that is a main driver of the drop in overall attendance since COVID,” Armhurst said.
The district said most grade levels did not see a change in class size. But Austin Achieve officials said it will hold a town hall with the community in the next few weeks.