Letter: ACS should fix two-tiered enrollment system

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The current budgetary crisis at Asheville City Schools is one of the ACS Board of Education’s own making, driven by overcorrections in the face of rising enrollment projections. These overcorrections greatly reduced the number of students ACS is serving.

Instead of growing as expected from about 4,500 students in 2016 to nearly 5,000 students in 2021, the district shrank to 4,400 students pre-COVID and 4,100 today. At about $12,000 per student per year, the difference in per-student revenue from federal, state and local funds between the current enrollment and the previously projected enrollment is more than $10 million annually.

The ACS Board of Education overcorrected with policies to curb “out-of-district” enrollment, while restricting attempts to expand capacity. The board hardened the distinction between those who can afford to live within the legacy school district boundaries and those who can’t, selecting against struggling families who have been pushed out of district due to the explosion of vacation rentals and our skyrocketing housing costs.

More than half the population of the city of Asheville now resides outside the legacy Asheville City Schools district boundaries but still lives within the city limits. These Asheville residents are treated as second-class citizens through restricted enrollment and educational resources.

It is past time to significantly update or eliminate the two-tiered enrollment system and officially recognize and figure out transportation for “out-of-district” students who live in Asheville Housing Authority projects and economically depressed areas in the city of Asheville that are locked out of the legacy district boundaries.

In addition to (1) preserving all pre-COVID classrooms in the Asheville Primary School building at 441 Haywood Road, (2) allowing APS to add fourth and fifth grades (they already have the teacher) and (3) declaring a two-year moratorium on school closings and consolidations (to provide the stability that students and teachers need), I also ask that the ACS board to strongly consider (4) ending the two-tier enrollment system for out-of-district families, (5) eliminating the out-of-district fee for city of Asheville residents and (6) offering transportation for families who are economically displaced and nominally “out of district” as a matter of policy. This will help Asheville City Schools serve all of its students, even those facing housing insecurity.

I live inside the legacy Asheville City Schools district boundaries, where it is an ongoing challenge to find rental housing. I do not have a child at Asheville Primary School. I am advocating for all our students as a member of the community who has attended almost all ACS public school board meetings for nearly seven years, more than any current board member.

— Pepi Acebo


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10 thoughts on “Letter: ACS should fix two-tiered enrollment system

  1. Robert

    City Council should strongly consider appointing Pepi Acebo to the Board, should that be Pepi Acebo’s desire.

    • Pepi Acebo

      Thank you, Robert, for your support. I’ve applied previously and will continue to run.

  2. Mike R.

    I’ll do you a “one better”. Merge Asheville Schools and Buncombe County Schools for a county-wide system. Like just about every other county in the state.

    The current two system arrangement has no justification for continued existence, is a poor use of taxpayer monies due to duplication and as this article points out, has all sorts of inequities built in.

    The single school system would have one elected school board that would be accountable to all residents of Buncombe County.

    • Enlightened Enigma

      YES! a ‘reimagined’ ALL ONE government school system is the TOTAL NEED in Buncombe county but controlling democrackkks won’t mention it. They are EVIL peoples.

  3. indy499

    Other than eliminating duplicative bureaucracy (eg, 2 high paid superintendents) we don’t need two districts. Bureaucracy just lives forever until voters put the silver spike thru it.

  4. Keith

    Eliminating the out of district fees would unfairly tax property owners in the district. Be careful what you ask for, you might lose everything you already have.

    I will also warn you, “politics makes for strange bedfellows.”

    • Pepi Acebo

      Right now, we lose $12k+ each year for each student from a struggling family that we push out of Asheville City Schools district, versus $300 fee for out-of-district families. Many of the affective families have been displaced after living in the ACS school district for years, paying these taxes for years through their property taxes or rent.

      Do we suspend the $300 fee per family (now required to be paid in full by May for the following school year) or do we give up $12k+ per student in Federal, State, and Local funds? This takes $5 million to $11 million out of the school district each year.

    • kw

      Those with children in our schools should pay for schools. As a single man with no children (but who has spent half my life working with other people’s children), I’ve been overtaxed for years…

      • luther blissett

        There’s a name for “schools funded by parents.” It’s “private schools.” Asheville already has a few of them.

        If you need to be taught the value of public education then you probably haven’t been well educated and I guess you also don’t think much of kids.

  5. Enlightened Enigma

    Pepi, do you support an ALL ONE government school system for AVL/Buncombe Co? WHY do we allow ourselves to be forced to fund TWO separate antiquated systems ? WHY do none of the controllers and dictators NEVER bring this up for discussion and need ??? The TIME IS NOW ! Sick of all these racist democrackkks in control around here. Nasty evil people they are.

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