Austin ISD Hires Marketing Firm to Keep Students in Public Schools

Enrollment has declined for the past three years and Austin administrators want to keep students in the public school system.

By Alain StephensDecember 15, 2015 1:42 pm

We’ve seen schools do a lot to to bolster their image: new football stadiums, mascots, even beefing up the lunch menu.

For the Austin Independent School District, they’ve brought in the big guns. AISD officials have hired outside marketing consultants in a move that will cost the district almost $350,000. It might just be a necessity, according to reporter Mellissa Taboada, who covers education for the Austin American-Statesman.

“AISD has been losing students for the last three years,” she says. “That means a loss of state funding per student, about $6,000 per student.”

Taboada says low enrollment can lead to school closures. It’s part of a bigger plan for the district, which has a $1 billion annual budget.

“There are competitors to traditional public schools, like charter schools,” she says. “They’ve been doing advertising for years and so you see a larger number of AISD students who are moving over to charter schools now.”

Charter schools have gained ground in both city and suburban districts, Taboada says. Vouchers may mean that parents will send their kids to those schools instead.

“For right now, they just want to retain students,” she says. “They definitely want to attract students and try to bring back some of the students that have left to charter schools.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.