“The time has come to make a change,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said during a Feb. 10 press conference in support of Senate Bill 830.
The bill, authored by Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), would move California’s education funding base away from average daily attendance in favor of an enrollment-based funding model.
“For as long as any one of us can remember, California schools have received their funding based on average daily attendance allotments, essentially meaning that when a student is in school, a school receives a portion of funding and when that student misses school the district loses some funding,” Thurmond said. “As someone who has worked around attendance for almost 10 years, I have found, as many have said, that this is a system that creates an incredible lack of equity for many California schools.”
California is one of just six states that doesn’t consider enrollment numbers as its basis when determining state aid to districts.
Currently, districts’ budgets are based on enrollment while funding comes from attendance. This means if 100 students are enrolled in a district but there is 95 percent attendance, administrators must still be prepared to serve 100 students each day. There are fixed educational, programmatic and operational costs but funding is missed if students are absent.
Commencing in fiscal year 2023–24, SB 830 “would authorize a county office of education or school district to apply each fiscal year to the Superintendent for supplemental education funding. The bill would require a local educational agency to receive as supplemental education funding the difference between what the local educational agency would have received under the Local Control Funding Formula based on average daily membership and what the local educational agency received under the Local Control Funding Formula based on average daily attendance for that fiscal year, as provided,” the bill reads.
To be eligible, LEAs would have to report average daily enrollment for the previous academic year to the superintendent on July 1 as well as demonstrating “a maintenance of effort” to combat chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy. An LEA would need to spend at least 50 percent of supplement funding addressing chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy.
According to Portantino, districts have been asking for this change “for a long time.” With the state’s historic surplus, estimated at $30 or $40 billion, “this change would inject $3 billion into public education,” he continued. “You can argue that our kids should get at least 10 percent of that surplus though I think they should get more. So this is a modest change considering dollars in this years’ budget.”
No district would see a decrease in funding, Portantino said.
Some districts could see an increase of $7 million. In Oakland Unified School District, it could be $24 million or more and in Los Angeles USD, estimates are upwards of $200 million.
“We know that attendance in school is critical because a student has to be in class to learn, yet when students are facing trauma, economic uncertainty or dangerous routes to school, the simple act of showing up to class isn’t so simple,” said Kelly Gonez, president of LAUSD’s Board of Education. “School districts like LA Unified with high numbers of students in historically underserved communities face higher levels of chronic absenteeism and that means that our districts have less funding just as our students need more resources and supports to address the root cause issues.”
Before the pandemic, LAUSD had a 95 percent average daily attendance, but that has dropped to roughly 91 percent this year. Some methods the district has used to encourage students to come to school include an “Attendance Matters” campaign with local sports teams and a School Attendance Month each September as well as conducting case management, home visits and a student recovery day.