Attendance Issues Could Drive a Change in How School District Funding is Calculated

By Beth Meyerhoff, Education Legislation Advocate

In California, school districts receive funding based on the number of students who attend school or what is known as Average Daily Attendance (ADA). This funding system has become challenging for school districts today. First, total enrollment in K-12 traditional public schools has decreased by almost three percent or 170,000 students in 2020-21, according to California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. Enrollment increases and decreases are spread unevenly across the state, however. 

Secondly, attendance rates also vary by the school district and the impact of COVID-19. In a January 2022, article, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimates that the majority of districts have attendance levels that equal 90 percent of their enrollment or higher. By contrast, Los Angeles Unified School District’s attendance is about 77.5 percent of the fall enrollment. Data from School Innovations and Achievement showed that chronic absenteeism (missing more than 10 percent of the school year) increased by more than a third from March 2020 to March 2021. 

School Funding in California Depends on Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

Not all states fund their public schools the same way. Each measurement is influenced by focusing on different priorities, as the Education Commission of the States describes in a January 2022 Policy Brief. The Brief summarizes the five different ways schools count student enrollment:

  1. A single count on a single day.
  2. Two counts twice per year.
  3. Multiple counts over a period of time.
  4. An attendance average.
  5. A membership (or enrollment) average.

Below is a brief explanation of the most common ways state measure attendance,  as well as which states use which system: 

Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

California is one of seven states that use Average Daily Attendance (ADA) to determine school district funding, according to the Education Commission of the States. ADA is the average number of students in seats calculated over a state-determined period of time. Absent students are not counted in the daily count. The seven states using this measurement often cite the rationale that time spent in a physical classroom leads to improved student achievement. Along with California, those states include Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Texas.

Under ADA, districts with higher attendance rates receive more funding while those districts that have lower attendance rates (for whatever reasons), stand to lose funding. Using ADA can result in funding inequities among districts that serve different populations, particularly communities that tend to have higher rates of absenteeism. Reduced funding for school districts with absent students can reduce a district’s capacity to seek out missing kids.

Average Daily Membership (ADM)

Another method for counting students averages student enrollment numbers, rather than attendance. Average Daily Membership (ADM) measurement counts the number of students enrolled throughout all or most of the year which may enable school districts to more readily make hiring and programming decisions based on the number of students enrolled. This measurement includes absent students.
States using ADM: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia

Enrollment Count 

Another method is counting how many students are enrolled on a single day or multiple periods of days. Also known as a “seat count,” students can be counted in a single count period or during multiple count periods and it is a measurement of how many students are sitting in seats on a given “count day.” Enrollment Count is used by 28 states. States can emphasize attendance on “Count Day” to ensure more accurate census reporting.
Some states include absent students in this count, basically making it an enrollment count, and some do not.

Single Count Day 

This measurement is the number of students enrolled or in attendance on a certain day.
States using Single Count Day: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Utah and West Virginia.

Multiple Count Dates 

This measurement is the number of students enrolled or in attendance on several dates.
States using Multiple Count Dates: Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Wisconsin.

Two Other Methods

Two other methods measure students over one or more periods, some include absent students, others do not. Alabama, New Mexico, and Wyoming use a Single Count Period.
Illinois and Ohio use Multiple Count Periods.

California’s Approach Has Changed Little in Decades

California has not always used ADA to determine school funding. Prior to 1973, K-12 schools were funded by property taxes imposed by local school districts, leading to disparities in per-pupil funding. Parent John Serrano filed a lawsuit against the State of California and won, with the California Supreme Court finding that “equality of educational opportunity requires that all school districts possess an equal ability in terms of revenue to provide students with substantially equal opportunities for learning.” Until 1999, schools’ count of students was based on attendance but students with excused absences, mostly due to illness, were added to the count. After Senate Bill 727 was enacted in 1998-99, school districts no longer received funding for students who were absent from school for any reason.

Under current law, a school district’s funding is based on the greater of the prior year or current year ADA. In successive state budgets, policymakers have tried to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 absences on some districts by adjusting that rule somewhat: 

  • The 2020-21 Budget included a hold-harmless clause for determining district funding by permitting 2020-21 funding to be based on 2019-20 ADA rather than the 2020-21 ADA. 
  • The 2021-22 Budget Act allows school districts to determine ADA based on the prior year (2020-21) or current year ADA. 
  • The Governor’s Budget proposal for 2022-23 would fund districts based on their average attendance over the three years preceding the current year if that number exceeds their current and prior year attendance.

Legislators are proposing multiple strategies to help districts with volatile enrollment numbers and increased absenteeism due to COVID-19.

California State PTA took positions on three bills to help districts ensure more fiscal stability:

AB 1607 (Muratsuchi) – Watch – for purposes of the local control funding formula, this bill would calculate average daily attendance based on a 3-year average for those local educational agencies starting in the 2022-23 school year.

AB 1609 (Muratsuchi) – Support – for the 2022-23 fiscal year, require the department to use the greater of the 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, or 2022-23 fiscal year average daily attendance for purposes of apportionments under the local control funding formula for these local educational agencies.

SB 579 (Allen) – Support – for the 2021-22 fiscal year, require the department to use the greater of the 2019-20 or 2021-22 fiscal year average daily attendance for purposes of apportionments under the local control funding formula for these local educational agencies. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, require the department to use the greater of the 2019-20, 2021-22 or 2022-23 fiscal year average daily attendance for purposes of apportionments under the local control funding formula for these local educational agencies.

Each of these bills attempts to mitigate the impact of unpredictable and volatile enrollment and average daily attendance in school districts who budget years in advance. By ensuring fiscal predictability, school districts can better allocate resources to benefit all children.

California State PTA Supports SB 878, the Road to Success Act

By Beth Meyerhoff, Education Legislation Advocate

SB 878 (Skinner)

Yellow Buses for Every TK-12 California Public School

California State PTA supports Road to Success, a bill which will make sure that every TK-12 public school student has bus transportation to school. When kids don’t have a way to get to school, they miss school. 

Senate Bill 878 (Skinner) would create a universal state-funded bus plan. Districts would not be allowed to charge families a fee for transportation to school. Current California law does not require school districts to transport students and only around 9% of California students ride the bus to school (the lowest rate of any state) according to the 2017 National Household Travel Survey administered by the Federal Highway Administration. Federal law does require districts to transport certain students such as students with disabilities, students attending Federally Sanctioned Schools and homeless students.

Studies show a strong relationship between access to transportation and improved school attendance, according to an EdSource article. The California Department of Education also identifies lack of transportation as one of the most common reasons cited for missing school. 

Moreover, guaranteed transportation increases the likelihood of a student graduating high school. 

Other benefits of school bus transportation include potentially eliminating 17 million cars on the road nationally while reducing greenhouse gas emissions if zero-emission vehicles are used. Buses are a safer mode of transportation than cars according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. The American School Bus Council reports that students are seventy times more likely to get to school safely due to stop arm laws and safety features such as seat belts.

SB 878 would begin funding in 2022-23 in order to give school districts time to purchase buses and leverage resources to better attract and retain bus drivers. Implementation would begin in the 2023-24 school year. 

California State PTA has long supported legislation to fund the cost of transporting pupils as stated in our resolutions, School Transportation and School Transportation – Equitable and Adequate Funding. 

California State PTA believes that school attendance leads to student achievement. Universal bus transportation removes a barrier to school attendance and helps ensure that every child has the chance for success in school.

California State PTA Supports SB 291: Giving Students a Voice Act

By Melanie Lucas, Education Legislation Advocate

SB 291

California State PTA supports a bill that would give students a seat at the table on a special needs advisory board.

Roughly 800,000 students in California receive special education services which make up about 12.5% of the total student population according to the California Department of Education.

Currently, the 17-member Advisory Commission on Special Education (ASCE) exists to, among other things, study and provide assistance and advice to the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Legislature, and the Governor in new or continuing areas of research, program development, and evaluation in special education.

SB 291 seeks to give our students a seat at the table by forming a ten-member advisory council made up of students ages 16 to 24, with exceptional needs from across the state to advise the Advisory Commission of Special Education (ASCE) on their experiences in special education. This bill also adds one member of the new student advisory council to the ASCE with full voting rights, bringing  the commission to 18 members.  

California State PTA believes that representation matters. Giving our students, the most impacted stakeholders, a voice will lead to a much stronger understanding of their lived experiences resulting in better experiences for current and future students in special education. 

California State PTA Supports AB1675: Expedited Application Process For Teacher Credentialing of Military Spouses

By Beth Meyerhoff, Education Legislative Advocate

AB 1675 (Ward)

Expedited Teacher Credentialing for Spouses of Active Duty Armed Forces Members

California State PTA took a support position on a bill that will streamline the barriers to obtaining a license for military spouses who hold out-of-state teaching credentials. Assembly Bill 1675 (Ward). 

Military spouses often have only a short stay in California. Teaching is the most common occupation for military spouses. Lengthy relicensing requirements could discourage spouses from applying for their California teaching credential. With 40,000 military spouses in California and 10% identifying education as their career, Assembly Bill 1675 (Ward) could potentially benefit 4,000 military spouses and our California students and schools.

Under this bill, the California Teaching Credential Commission (CTC) teaching credential application process is streamlined so spouses need to submit: 1) fingerprinting / background check; 2) proof of out-of-state credential; 3) proof of military orders. Once the paperwork is submitted, the CTC would have seven days to process the application with the goal of spouses teaching within 30 days of submitting paperwork. The bill would also require the CTC to post information specific to its policies affecting the military community on its website in order to improve accessibility on these policies.

This bill would address the teacher shortage in California. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nationwide, there are 567,000 fewer educators in our public schools than before the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by the National Education Association, 55% of educators are looking to leave the teaching profession earlier than they had planned. In 2017-18, 80% of California school districts reported a shortage of qualified teachers. 

California State PTA supports practices to hire highly qualified teachers. Recruiting and hiring fully credentialed military spouses will ensure that all students have access to well prepared and effective teachers.

California State PTA is a Sponsor of AB 1614, Increasing the LCFF Base Grant

By Anita Avrick, Education Legislation Advocate 

AB 1614 (Muratsuchi)

It’s Time to Raise the Base Grant

California State PTA supports increasing school funding for all students. Our students deserve adequate funding for a full curriculum. AB 1614 (Muratsuchi) would raise the amount of money used as a base grant in California’s public school funding formula. California State PTA has voted to sponsor this bill.

In 2013-14, California enacted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) which is how schools are allocated money in California.  LCFF is intended to provide school districts with greater discretion in using their funds to educate students while providing an emphasis on additional resources for those with greater needs. 

In the 2018-19 Budget, LCFF was fully funded. However, California was still below average per-pupil funding rates when compared with other states. There is still inadequate funding of the base to cover rising fixed costs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, greater flexibility is now needed by local school districts to focus on sustaining and expanding a student-centered recovery. All school districts will benefit from base grant increases.

Currently, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) states that there will be an additional $8.4 billion available for ongoing K-12 priorities that can be used to address changes school districts and our students are facing. In addition, in the Governor’s proposed budget for the year 2022-23, $102 billion for Proposition 98 funding includes $3.3 billion in Proposition 98 funding for LCFF, but no additional funding for the base grants. 

AB 1614 takes $4.2 billion (half of the estimated Proposition 98 increase) and adds it into the LCFF above the statutory Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for the 2022-23 budget year. The base rates would increase by about $3.4 billion and would also provide increases of the supplemental and concentration grant by roughly $750 million each. The goal is to bring California into the top ten states in the country for K-12 per-pupil spending.

California State PTA Supports AB558, School Meals: Child Nutrition Act of 2022

By Vinita Verma, California State PTA Health Advocate

AB 558 (Nazarian)

School meals support education by providing nutrition to children. They improve behavior, ability to focus, and academic performance. For some students, school meals are the only meal that they have all day long. Yet, traditional school lunch meals make it hard for children with dietary restrictions or food allergies to make use of the school lunch program. Families with children who are too young to be enrolled at school can have children who face hunger at an even younger age. 

California State PTA supports AB 558 – School meals: Child Nutrition Act of 2022. This bill would encourage school districts to offer plant-based meals at schools and also encourages school districts to offer meals to non school-age siblings, half-siblings, and step-siblings of students who use the free or reduced-price lunch program, as well as foster children at schools from first to sixth grade. 

California State PTA has a long history of supporting child nutrition in schools and has multiple resolutions which strongly support this bill: 

  • School Nutrition Programs: Improvement and Expansion (2012)
  • Breakfast in Every School (2103)
  • Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis in Schools (2014)
  • Healthy Lifestyles for All Children (2004) 

California State PTA believes that school meals are essential for all children. Ensuring that all children have access to nutritious, healthy meals that meet their dietary needs is essential for their robust development, growth, and education.