Truancy costs districts 1000’s of dollars a day

It's probably the most wonderful time of the 12 months for prime school seniors who’ve already declared which colleges they'll be attending in the autumn. As graduation approaches, Bay Area students may be seen in glittery prom dresses, having fun with the ultimate weeks of their senior 12 months and perhaps even skipping a category or two.

For a highschool student who has to skip third period history class, the results could seem small, however the empty seats cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Four years after the COVID-19 pandemic, schools proceed to struggle with declining enrollment and protracted chronic absenteeism.

According to the California Department of Education, school districts statewide lose about $3.6 billion in funding annually as a consequence of absences. Last 12 months, 93% of California's 6 million students were absent no less than once, and the typical was 14.6 days. In total, California students missed 80 million days of college in 2022-23.

The state has a $27.6 billion budget deficit. To close that gap, Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a change to guaranteed minimum payments to varsities that would cost districts $12 billion. Even if that number is lowered through negotiations, the formula means California schools are under constant financial pressure to pay their bills.

California is one in every of seven states that fund schools based on average every day attendance—the typical number of scholars in school on daily basis throughout the college 12 months. Whether students are sick or skipping class, in the event that they're not of their seats, schools lose money.

That's essential because districts create their budgets – teachers, staff and overhead – based on the estimated number of scholars enrolled in the beginning of the 12 months. But the state only gives districts money for the number of scholars who show up every day.

Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank) said average every day attendance will be the “most unfair” approach to funding public education.

“If you take money away from a district because someone is absent, you are not reducing their (overhead costs), you are simply penalizing them for their absence,” Portantino said.

The money allocated to varsities relies on a fancy formula that features state, federal and native funds. The base amount varies barely for every grade level, and districts receive additional money for low-income students and English learners.

For example, Oakland Unified loses $73 for on daily basis a first-grader misses class, while neighboring Piedmont Unified loses $57, in keeping with California Department of Education data that lists the annual per-pupil amounts districts receive.

An absent highschool student costs the district $86 at Emery Unified, while the quantity at Dublin Unified is $65, in keeping with CDE data.

Some districts are less affected by student absences than others. The local property taxes paid to varsities in San Jose Unified, Santa Clara Unified and Palo Alto Unified are higher than the minimum amount they might have received from the state, so the financial penalties for student absences will not be as high.

In the Bay Area, a 3rd of college districts are funded largely by local property taxes.

But for schools that receive most of their funding from the federal government, the impact of student absences can add up.

The Hayward Unified School District reported a median of 1,900 absences per day through the 2022-2023 school 12 months, leading to a whopping $24 million in lost state payments—nearly $135,000 per day.

The East Side Union High School District in San Jose reported a median of 1,682 absences per day that very same 12 months, adding as much as $21 million in losses, or nearly $119,000 per day.

And while districts with higher shares of socioeconomically disadvantaged students — reflecting partly family income or the number of scholars who’re immigrants or homeless — may receive more supplemental funding, these are sometimes the identical districts which might be most affected by attendance-based funding, says Jonathan Kaplan, a senior policy fellow on the California Budget and Policy Center.

“School districts where a large share of students come from low-income families are disproportionately affected by this decline in enrollment and increase in chronic absenteeism,” he said.

In West Contra Costa Unified, where greater than half of scholars fall into this category, in keeping with the California School Dashboard, 42% of the district's K-8 students were considered chronically absent within the 2022-23 school 12 months. A student is taken into account chronically absent if she or he misses 10% or more of the college 12 months's 180 school days.

By comparison, at San Ramon Valley Unified, where only 6% of scholars are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, fewer than 10% of K-8 students were chronically absent within the 2022-23 school 12 months.

Now, with federal COVID relief funds set to run out in September and education funding under constant threat, some lawmakers are wondering if it's time to vary how California's public schools are funded.

Portantino has proposed changing school funding from attendance to enrollment based. Under SB 98, a law he introduced in 2022, districts can be funded based on the typical number of scholars enrolled per day, not attendance.

Portantino estimated that enrollment-based funding would offer schools with nearly $4 billion in additional funding, a few of which can be used to combat truancy in districts.

“This can cause problems for school districts with struggling student populations…it may even create an incentive for the school district to discourage those students from coming to school,” Kaplan said.

Wendi McCaskill, director of business consulting at School Services of California, warned that any change to the state's funding model can be complicated because attendance-based funding is “ubiquitous.”

“A lot of legislation would have to be changed and you would have to think carefully about how to do that,” McCaskill said. “It's not something that could happen quickly. … We're talking about changes to our (state) constitution.”

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