Where did all the kids go?

This was surprising news: Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (you know, the ones that are overcrowded because of the rapid growth of our school-aged community) only added 68 new students this school year. This was so far under expectations that they may have to give some money back to the state. Don't worry - both high schools are still over capacity.

I haven't noticed any radical changes in development patterns. The only explanations I can think of are charter schools taking in more students, or the Schools Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (SAPFO). But I don't think SAPFO has been implemented yet. The Chapel Hill News called it a "pause" in our ongoing growth spurt. I wonder if this could this signal a significant change in our development patterns?


I do not find this too surprising.We have known for a while that many families move here for the quality of our schools.With the ever growing costs of housing young families with little kids often can not afford to enter the Ch/Carr housing market.However as families grow a little older and the parents move further along in their careers,earning more money ,some-the forunate few-may be able to afford the move. As a result many families who want their kids to go the Ch/Carr schools can not afford to till the kids are in high school so unlike many communities which see school enrolment grow in the early grades our's grows in high school.

The very good performance of the Orange Co could also be a factor. I'd also be interested in knowing how many CHCCS parents are now sending their kids to private schools/ homeschooling after all the brouhaha over gifted education last year.

Jacquie is right. It's expensive to live around here. Especially with Carrboro and Chapel Hill elected officials deciding to raise property taxes nearly every year...and a governor who has raised taxes three times in under four years. Not to mention the increasing School District tax, and our county that is also fond of tax increases.

I am not sure why all these taxes need to increase in an area were property values increase enough to generate plenty of additional revenue with taxes rates remaining flat.

Todd -
There's another reason why taxes need to be raised and that is due to the incrdeible cost of supporting American militarism and funneling money to Halliburton and other crony capitalists.

An interesting angle on these enrollment figures would be to explore the generally unmentioned educational establishment/real estate community complex. In the past, the CH-Carrboro City Schools have partnered with the real estate community to promote the area (and raise school enrollment) even as the administrators asked for more money and impact fees to cober overcrowding expenses.

Mark -

The last time I looked, there was no Chapel Hill, Carrboro or Orange County budget line item earmarking local taxes to military spending. Where did that claim come into the discussion;

It's totally bogus to imply that the school system is in cahoots with real estate folks. The schools are part of the quality of life in this community and naturally is an important part of the real estate business - it will come up.

SAFCO is a fiasco as the County Commission has not been administering it as they should. It was in place long ago.

Todd is on target. For a number of reasons, people have a tendency to want their kids in our public High Schools, and this trend may continue - - - all the more reason for the County Commission to support the 3rd High School, and soon.

First, Todd's point about the maturity of family income and affordability coming with age (the kid is ready for High School), and the parents feel they can afford paying to live in Chapel Hill in order to get the kid in a good High School.

Second, there is a sense of getting the kids through the difficult middle school years, and their being over the hump, ready for public education at a good public High School, including taking the child out of a private school for a public High School education.


A few years back, the CH-Carrboro School system produced a video promoting the school system for the sole purpose of distributing it to local real estate firms. That's a fact.

And, obviously, federal taxation is linked to local taxation. Military spending uses up real revenue which could be better used for education, health care, social needs, etc. I'm always bemused when tax activists bemoan local spending on bus driver wages or whatever and simultaneously support federal policies which drain good money into military adventurism and they apparently can never figure out the disconnect.

FACT: Bush has spent more Federal money on education than any past president. He inceased spending by a larger percentage than any other president (11.5%). That is nearly $2 billion extra dollars. There goes your theory Mark.



Your fact is correct but it lacks context. NCLB increased the costs of record keeping/administration to the schools by more than than the increased funding covered. There has been a net loss even though the raw numbers show an increase. On top of that the funding wasn't equally distributed, even though the costs were.

NCLB was a wonderful sentiment but it's implementation created a mess for the schools.


That is a complete myth. I challenge you to find a source for that.

In fact, NC has over $50 million in unclaimed NCLB money just sitting there.

Mark -

My point is no different; it is inaccurate for you to paint the school system as "partnering with the real estate" business to somehow attract more folks here. A supportive community video to avoid misinformation being passed to incoming families is in fact an important public service, not marketing.

In terms of your comments on taxes, you are right from an economic point of view, I suppose. A tax dollar collected and spent is a tax dollar collected an spent. It does not reproduce itself; the work of someone produces dollars/economic gain. You are bothered by HOW tax dollars a being spent. Of course, this is the risk you take when spending authority is seeded to government (local or Federal). That dollar is no longer available to the person who earned it to make the decision he or she feels is best on how it is spent.

Don't paint people who complain about how their taxes are spent as somehow anti-tax. That's a public right, and necessary to holding local and Federal officials accountable.

Here's one reference Todd.

I haven't been able to open .pdf files recently so I can't pull any specific references from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO):


Well, _every_ president at one time or another "has spent more Federal money on education than any past president." Inflation and all, don't you know.

You're right, Todd, on the other point, although I think your figures are a little low. The difference between the FY 2000 total appropriation for the Department of Education and the FY 04 budget appropriation is roughly up 64.5%, a difference of $24.8 billion. During the first Clinton term, total appropriations for the Department of Education went down by about 5% (a little less than $2 billion), but recovered by 2000, so that Clinton's four year increase from 1996 to 2000 was 26%, and during his entire 8-year term it was 19.5%. (Bush the First increased the education budget by 60.5%, or roughly $12 billion, and Reagan's 8 year term saw the education budget -- no Dept. of Education then -- increase by 43%, or roughly $6 billion, about equal in dollar terms to the Clinton increase, but much greater when adjusted for inflation.)

What to make of this? We know that the only period that the federal budget was balanced during the 24 years under question was during the Clinton term. That might explain something.

We also know that Bush II spends more on everything! It's a Republican tradition! In the first three years of outlays during Bush II's presidency (there aren't figures for outlays during this fourth year, which isn't complete yet), he's increased total federal spending by 20.6%. During the comparable period of Clinton's presidency, Clinton increased total federal spending by just 9.7%. How to explain that? Maybe it's a family tradition: Bush I increased federal spending during that comparable period by 24.4%, edging his son. But Bush I doesn't even come close to Reagan, who increased federal spending by 36.8% during the comparable, first three years of his presidency.

The only conclusion to be drawn is this: the Republican party is the party of big-spending government, coupled with a fondness for spending more than they have. How responsible! How thrifty! Remind me to hire one of the Republican budget gurus to plan _my_ budget! I'll eventually be able to declare bankruptcy and wipe my debts clean and pass them on to other consumers and taxpayers! It's the Republican way!

(All of my figures have come directly from my own analysis of the Department of Education's budget tables, and the Congressional Budget Office's series of historical budget tables. I have not consulted any of the liberal media.)

It almost makes you pine for the days of the Contract for America, a prominent part of which was the "balanced budget amendment":


I point this out not because I have any love for the Contract for America, but because it's the starkest example of how far Republicans have come in abandoning their formerly professed ideals in the naked desire for simple political power. Or, that they'll say anything to get elected.


I don't think you have seen the video. It is total fluff, without substance - scenes with the narrator (who's that Civil War buff who's heard on WCHL now?) standing infront of blooming azaleas and saying things like, "All of the etachers in our school system care deeply about each and every child". I'm not kidding. You need to put a brick on it just to keep it from floating off the table.


I never said who spent more on education. I don't even think the U.S. public school system is a positive force in society. For one thing, half of the graduates of the system are dumb enough to be fooled by Bush & the neocons. My point is that huge amounts of money are siphoned out of local communities that could be better spent on real human needs. Health care not Halliburton profits.

Another reference for ToddtheBlog on the underfunding of schools by NCLB:

"The bipartisan National Governors Association voted unanimously in 2003 to name No Child Left Behind an ``unfunded mandate,'' which means the federal government isn't supplying the money needed to make the law work. The Washington-based group called on Congress and Bush to fully fund the law."


I had promised to report on the open house the county planning dept. ran on Twin Creeks park/school site last week. Briefly, they kept the land nearest Hogan Farms for the park and playing fields. The interior roads and parking were re-organized to give better traffic flow, they have a more experienced designer newly hired this summer. No facilities were eliminated.
The combined ES/MS was shown moved up right to Eubanks Rd, so it is the maximum distance away from the neighborhood. Steve Scroggs said this is where the school district is also planning on putting the school, although it was the first time he had been allowed to get a look at the county plan. So much for a spirit of openness and colloboration between the county and schools. I guess the convenience of being right next to the main road for the busses is good, and it minimizes the cost of running water/sewer/electricity. The schools will have to actually provide bussing for the furthest sections of Hogan Farms, since it will exceed 1.5 mi. And they call this smart growth! What a joke. There is a proposed 12' wide walk/bikepath going up from the south all the way to the school site (about 1/2 mile, according to the county planner), so those kids and/or parents that want to walk through the park will feel like they can see some distance ahead to see if anyone is lurking on the path, and it will also be available as emergency vehicle route. Certainly that is better than just a 3' sidewalk through the woods.
During question time I put in yet another plug for considering swapping the school sites with the park sites, to put the school near the walking population, and it was duly noted. I know from my experience seeing people walk to McDougle, that 1/2 mi. is too far for the smaller ES kids. I grew up in towns where some kids lived right next to school, it was not separated by a 1/2 mi of greenspace from the very first homes. This is just so ridiculous.
There is a proposal for a town bus stop somewhere in the middle of the site, accessed by the new connector road running north/south. There are a number of bridges across the stream which generally separates the schools from the park. The county is asking that the school site NOT be fenced off, which seems like something that will take a lot of discussion. The idea is that the public could roam across the school sites as part of open-space. Does not work well for me, given the problems that have occurred at various schools due to violent strangers. The trails connecting the school to the park would obviously need gates in the fence to allow access during non-school hours, or possibly even for track practice during school, but I hope the school would retain control of when to lock the gates.
When the plan comes to Carrboro for review, I hope the Carrboro aldermanic council will think about telling the county commissioners to get serious about smart growth. Separating schools from their neighborhoods by a half-mile just forces extra car trips, and minimizes the number of people walking to school. For shame!

The supposed lack of affordable housing can not explain students leaving the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. Could it be the quality of education?

Actually, the lack of "affordable" housing MIGHT explain the reduction in numbers--at least I can comeup with a reasonable scenario...

Please note that it is the ELMENTARY and MIDDLE school numbers that are down. Typically, people with younger kids don't have as much "where withall" as people with older children. There is also a perception that going to a "good" HS is more important than going to a "good" elementary school. I've known more than one family from Chatham County who moved into the area so their kid could go to HS in the city system.

BUT--it's just a fantasy scenario. Until they actually RUN THE NUMBERS we don't really know who left, where they went, or why.

We won't talk about the kids whose families live in the Govenor's Club and rent apartments in Chapel Hill so their kids can go to East.


Melanie, there was actually an article in the Chapel Hill News last week about bogus enrollments:

There are also more private school options for elementary and middle school kids, some of them "reasonably" (relatively speaking) priced.

But, as I understand it, Most of the children who transferred out of the system went to OTHER PUBLIC SCHOOLS...
From Sunday's CHH:
"953 students have withdrawn from the city schools..."

"But the context, of course, is that this always has been somewhat of a transient community and families do come and go. And around 900 of the students who left went to other public schools. Only 48 withdrew to go to non-public or charter schools. " (The editorial doesn't say where the other five children went...one might assume they had either dropped out or were being homeschooled.)

So there goes THAT idea.

Or are you saying that the families who move in choose to send their childrent to private/charter schools instead of the CHCCS? I'd be interested in seeing THOSE enrollment numbers.

All I know is that East and Chapel Hill High are packed to the gills.


One detracting feature of the CHCCS is the overcrowding, as well as the frequent redistricting that results from failure to build ahead of population needs.

One solution is to insist that the schools populations need to grow less quickly (or to freeze) ... that neighboring counties take most of the schools hit for our area's growth.

Now we've got two Commissioners (at least) who want to REDUCE school construction spending, as if an ostrich sticking its head in the sand is the best model for solving crowding. Halkiotis refers to the Commission as "us" and the schools as "them." (Jacobs is the chief proponent of limiting construction in this way.) I'm sorry, Mr. Halkiotis, but as Commissioner, you are supposed to represent all schools within Orange County.


Jeff: I think Mr. Halkiotis was using "us" referring to non-school projects and "them" in referring to the schools (both districts).

The paper did not mention Margaret Brown. I heard that she also enthusiastically supported the proposal to limit funding for schools. Anyone know whether SAPFO would supercede this proposal or does SAPFO go out the window? If new developments are built and there are more children, seems like we would need to have more schools built. Would also be good to have a library system, parks, and the like.

Ruby didn't want to create a new thread for these, even though I think this topic deserves it. She recommended that I post to other relevant threads.

1. The business of public bodies should be conducted in a public manner.
On 10/25, several commissioners on the Orange Board of County Commissioners attempted to pass a resolution to impose capital spending targets on the same night as it was proposed without it being on the agenda and without disclosing the entire text of the resolution in advance. Conducting business in this manner is a breach of the public trust and is shady and wrong. The resolution has SERIOUS implications on capital projects in Orange County, so many questions need to be asked and answered.

Elected officials should go out of their way to get public input.

2. Capital Spending Targets Proposal Leaves Questions
It is hard to make a complete opinion on the matter since the proposal is not yet available to the public. There are currently no capital spending targets. In the past 15 years, an average of 77 % capital funding has gone to schools and 23% to county government. This proposed target would cap school capital funding to 60%. Elementary School #10 has already been approved by voters. Many Questions need to be asked and answered.

  • Q: What is the disposition of ES #10 school construction in light of this proposal? Is it going to be taken out of the budget plan completely or will it be explicitly deferred to a later date in the budget?
  • Q: Why was there an attempt to pass this prior to having staff input?
  • Q: Is the spending target a multi-year target and/or a target in any given year? Obviously, capital spending varies greatly from year to year. When is Orange County going to have a comprehensive long range plan so that we can see how this would fit into such a plan?
  • Q: Does this proposal take precedence over or in any way affect SAPFO?
  • Q: Where is the text of the proposal? As of 4 days after the meeting, it did not appear to be on the Orange County website.
  • Q: How can the public reasonably study the staff responses which are due on the 16th before a vote takes place on the 16th?
  • Q: Is the 60% schools, 40% non-school capital spending figure arbitrary or calculated? What was the basis for the calculation?
  • Q: Will this affect any current Pay-as-you-go debt?
  • Q: Why were the two boards of education not consulted for their input?

Related Articles:

If CHCCS enrollment is dropping, how do we know there is still a pressing need for the new high school? Does anyone know how far off the high school enrollment figures for this year were?


I don't think that the enrollment is dropping. It's just that the growth is not as high as projected. Chapel Hill High is over capacity, and East is right at capacity. I think the fastest growth right now is at middle and high school levels.


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