At the start of the summer, IDEA Public Schools proudly proclaimed it had so many applicants for the new IDEA Allan campus it was having to turn kids away. Less than two months later, the Austin Independent School District’s highly touted in-district charter is already looking for more students to fill seats for the upcoming school year.
Though it is recruiting districtwide, IDEA Allan sits in trustee Sam Guzmán’s district. He was one of the most vocal advocates for the campus and was surprised by the continued drive to fill seats. He said, “My perception was that they were already full, but them recruiting would run counter to that.” Guzmán blamed the enrollment problems on the boycott organized by Pride of the Eastside and said he was disappointed that local children would not have access to the opportunities that IDEA might provide. But he was most concerned that recruitment seemed to be districtwide, rather than concentrating on the Eastside Memorial Vertical Team. According to the most recent numbers, issued the day before the May 17 lottery, only 39% of eligible students within the Allan and Eastside attendance zones had signed up for IDEA. Neighborhood enrollment was so low that, on lottery day, 446 of the 600 seats at IDEA Allan were opened up to kids outside of the Eastside. Guzmán said, “My thought all along was that it was meant for the kids in that vertical team first and exclusively.”
At this point, it is unclear exactly where those kids exiting IDEA Allan have gone – if they’ve gone to another AISD school, another district, a charter, a private school, or simply left the school system. That lack of tracking frustrates both critics and supporters of AISD, including Pride of the Eastside spokesman and Govalle PTA President Vincent Tovar. His concern is that IDEA is supposed to be acting as a part of the district: Instead, their aggressive and seemingly perpetual recruitment campaign further challenges the claim that there is demand for IDEA. “Where’s the need?” he said. “If they can’t make the numbers, then there’s no need.”