USA News

The wrong way to fund state schools


To the delight of the California School Boards Association, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest budget proposal has adopted what the CSBA calls “COVID attendance relief.”

Newsom’s proposal would allow local educational agencies to be funded based either on their current-year average daily attendance or at an “adjusted” average daily attendance that uses a three-year rolling average, whichever is greater.

This math trick allows school districts to get extra credit for pre-COVID attendance numbers. It adds average daily attendance for the 2019-20 school year into the funding calculations.

During the first year of the pandemic, the Legislature adopted a “hold harmless” provision in the budget that based school funding on the pre-pandemic school year. But now it appears that the governor wants to continue to credit schools for attendance by students who are not there, and are not coming back.

Enrollment is declining in California schools. As of January, average daily attendance for K-12 students was down by 271,000 since 2014. The pandemic is just the latest cause of reduced attendance.

California adopted its attendance-based funding system back in 1911. Six other states — Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas — also use ADA to determine school funding.

Other states use systems based on enrollment such as “average daily membership,” or they count students on a given day, multiple days or during designated periods of time.

The purpose of average daily attendance funding is to give local educational agencies an incentive to do everything they can to ensure that students show up for school. A March 2022 report by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) looked at alternative funding systems and noted that “the current system includes a fiscal incentive that, most agree, encourages higher attendance.”

The report was cited in the legislative analysis of Senate Bill 830, authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge. The bill would change California’s funding formula to one based on enrollment, not attendance. The change would increase the overall costs of the Local Control Funding Formula for schools by about $3.4 billion.

To address concerns about absenteeism and truancy, Portantino’s bill would require local educational agencies to spend at least 30% of their supplemental education funds to provide attendance-related services and supports, and to address the “root causes” that contribute to chronic absence and habitual truancy.

New positions would be created to do this work, replacing a financial incentive for the district to use its existing resources and personnel to encourage attendance.

One problem with creating new positions is that local educational agencies are already burdened with unaffordable pension costs. The California School Boards Association expressed disappointment that the governor’s budget “failed to provide continued relief for school employers as they face a $1.2 billion increase in pension rate increases beginning July 1.”  The CSBA wants the Legislature to provide extra funding, in addition to what’s guaranteed to the schools under Proposition 98, to “alleviate these costs” so they don’t “cut into schools’ ability to serve students.”

In announcing his latest budget proposal, Newsom said per-pupil funding statewide is now a record-high $16,991 under Proposition 98, and $22,850 from all funding sources.

It’s not too much to ask for the schools to do their job with the resources they have. The Legislature should say no to funding gimmicks that pay schools as if students are in the classroom when they’re not.


File source

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button