Hutto Independent School District is based in Hutto, Texas, part of the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area. As of October 2010, the school district enrolled about 5,417 students in nine elementary, middle, and high schools.
As an Outlier
Hutto ISD was presented as a case of “high spending, high enrollment, low poverty,” which led us to believe something may be going wrong with the district. Suzi David, the director of child nutrition at Hutto, said 47% of students at Hutto schools were enrolled in free and reduced-price lunch. The district received $1,352,714 in reimbursements for the school lunch program in 2010. However, the most recent American Community Survey revealed the median family income in Hutto to be around $70,000, which indicates a fairly well-to-do area that should not have almost half its students on free or reduced-price lunch.
David attributed to the discrepancy between poverty level and number of kids on free and reduced lunch to the recent growth of the Austin metropolitan area in the last 5 years. When Austin started booming economically, many people started moving out of Austin and into local surrounding towns and community in order to find cheaper housing. Hutto, located 16 miles outside Austin, was such an option. In addition, Hutto contains a community of Section 8 housing which was also built about 5 years ago, David said. Section 8 housing, a program started with the United States Housing Act of 1937, provides government-subsidized housing to low-income tenants. In the last 5 years, Hutto has seen its population go from 5,000 to around 15,000 or 20,000 residents as a result of the availability of Section 8 housing and the growth of Austin area, David said. The effects are also visible at the school level: David said one school near the Section 8 housing area has 65% of kids on free or reduced-price lunch, while almost all the other schools in Hutto have only about 30% of kids on subsidized lunch.
The discrepancy between enrollment numbers, federal spending, and poverty rate in Hutto cannot be completely attributed to recent housing trends in Hutto. David said that the program does encounter mistakes with correctly enrolling students and certifying them for free or reduced-price lunch.