CA could change school funding formula based on attendance

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Grade one Sophia Frazier does her homework behind a plastic divider – only students near the teacher’s desk appeared to have them – during class at Two Rivers Elementary School on Monday, March 8, 2021. It was the first day. class at the third to fifth grade school, but the first graders returned last week.

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A Democratic lawmaker wants to use part of the state’s projected $ 31 billion budget surplus to increase funding for schools and change the way California pays for public education.

A new bill from Senator Anthony Portantino would change the funding formula for schools from a formula based on average daily attendance to one based on total enrollment.

For decades, California has based its school funding on student attendance, which Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge and their supporters say unfairly punishes low-income districts that have high truancy and dropout rates. higher absenteeism.

California is one of six states to base its funding on attendance, along with Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.

“If a school district enrolls 100 students, but their attendance rate is 95%, the school district should prepare as if 100 students are attending classes, but only receives funding for 95,” Portantino said. “This bill will remedy that injustice.

Senate Bill 830 would capitalize on state expectations budget surplus by making an additional $ 3 billion available to school districts, Portantino said. Some school districts will benefit more than others based on the difference between their attendance and enrollment rates, he said.

But the senator stressed that the bill would result in increased funding “in all areas.” No district would lose funding under the legislation.

“We want to make sure that there are only winners with this new paradigm, there will be no losers,” Portantino said.

The bill would also require schools to use 50% of the additional funds to tackle absenteeism. If adopted, it would come into force for the 2023-2024 school year.

The California School Employees Association, a union representing more than 230,000 public sector employees, is co-sponsoring the bill. Association President Shane Dishman said enrollment-based funding is more useful than attendance-based funding in tackling absenteeism.

“The truth is that attendance-based funding punishes students in schools that need state financial support the most,” he said.

In the 2018-19 school year, 12.1% of California’s 6 million students were chronically absent, according to status data. African-American students experienced the highest absenteeism rate, 22.5%, among their peers.

Kelly Gonez, chair of the Los Angeles Unified School District board of directors, said an enrollment-based funding formula would benefit Los Angeles students, who suffer from a disproportionately higher rate of chronic absenteeism than other districts.

“School districts like LA Unified, with high student numbers in historically underserved communities, face higher levels of chronic truancy, and this truancy means school districts have less funding just when their students need more support and more resources, ”Gonez said.

Additional funding will help districts like LAUSD tackle the “root causes” of chronic absenteeism, Gonez said. The district currently provides case management and home visits, and hosts a once-a-year “Student Recovery Day” in which volunteers from across the district reach out to chronically absent students.

As a result of these efforts, LAUSD was able to achieve an attendance rate of around 95% before the pandemic. But the coronavirus has brought that number down, closer to 91%, Gonez said.

“This drop is a waste of money when our students need us and these resources the most,” she said. “So I really hope the legislature will support SB 830 to provide additional funding to school districts serving populations in need. ”

Lara Korte covers California politics for The Sacramento Bee. Prior to joining The Bee, she reported on higher education in Texas for Austin American-Statesman. She graduated from the University of Kansas.

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