School District Enrollment 45 ADM 2014-15
By Alex Saitta
February 5, 2015
The 45-day enrollment figures are out for the school district. K-12 enrollment was 16,116. It declined this past year. Overall enrollment in the district is down over the past few years a bit.
The charter school has hurt Pickens Middleís enrollment, but the issue is broader than that. This past year 12 of the 16 elementary schools had falling enrollment.
First, those who said Easley needed a second middle school because enrollment was growing were incorrect. Gettys Middleís enrollment (1,317) is the lowest it has been since 2010-11.
Second, when the building plan was proposed advocates said if the school district builds all these new schools, businesses will come to Pickens County, families would relocate here and student enrollment will rise. Advocates also said home and private schoolers would flock to our schools, hence boosting enrollment. The phrase they used was, build the schools and they will come. (In hindsight, I donít think any of them had enough expertise or knowledge to think those things would actually happen. They wanted all these new schools and were saying just about anything that sounded good to get them. Another thing they said was, even though the district was adding so much square feet, it would not cost more to heat/ cool them, because the buildings would be so much more efficient. The districtís electric bill is up $1.5 million.)
At the time I argued two counter points concerning enrollment. The morals in society are declining and that was going to continue to seep into our schools, as a result it was unlikely home and private schoolers would rush into public schools. I also said raising taxes on all property in the county by 40 mills (7 times the record) would hurt investment and business formation, hence job growth would remain subdued. Without job growth, families with children will not relocate here, depressing enrollment growth.
K-12 enrollment at the 45-day mark in 2006-07 (when ground was first broken on the building program) was 16,183. This year 45-day enrollment was 16,116. The advocates proved to be wrong.
Why? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in March 2007 total employment of residents who live in Pickens County was 56,310. Today it is 54,586. By the way, goods producing (manufacturing, mining, farming, construction, and utilities) employment during that time fell from 9,547 to 7,039. Manufacturing was about 1,000 jobs of that decline. Just drive around, whatever business formation you see is not creating gainful employment ó dollar stores, fast food, and other minimum wage retail jobs. The number of business establishments in the county during that time fell from 2,136 to 2,095.
No one will relocate to Pickens County to work as a cashier at a retail store. In fact, on balance, families with children are leaving the county. Look at Alliance Pickensís fact sheet. From 2010 to 2014 the population of 0 to 5 years old fell from 5.4% of the county population to 5.1%, 5 to 9 year olds fell from 5.6% to 5.4%, 10 to 14 year olds fell from 5.8% to 5.5% and 15 to 19 year olds fell from 9.6% of the county population to 9.1%. In contrast the segment of 55 to 64 year olds rose from 11.5% to 12.1%, and the 65+ group rose from 13.4% to 14.6%.
What are we hearing now from Robin Nelson Miller (Concerned Citizens of Pickens County), Tom OíHanlan (Manufacturers Caring For Pickens County), the administration and the board chairman? More of the same. If the school district raises property tax rates even more and puts more money into the education system, it will help attract business and jobs will be created.
No. I think it is becoming apparent their approach is not working. The solution is to improve education without further raising costs on business. Education needs to become more efficient (that is get more education out of existing education dollars), not just raise taxes and then spend even more on the education system. And with the money school district has, education needs to be more focused on direct instruction and increase the percentage of the money spent in the classroom.
Businesses expand and hire when they are making a profit. Raising their tax rates and hence their costs will only further impede employment growth in this county. It is simple macroeconomics that too many in government from the county level to the federal government donít understand.