Thurmond adds his support to funding schools by enrollment, not attendance


Supporters of legislation to change how districts are funded from daily attendance to yearly enrollment continued to press their case in a news conference Thursday. It was organized by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who announced he would co-sponsor the legislation to make the switch.

Thurmond said that Senate Bill 830, the enrollment-based funding bill authored by Senate Appropriations Chair Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would not only generate $3 billion more for school districts but would do so more equitably. It would end the situation, he said, in which low-income schools with “the kind of circumstances that drive higher rates of absenteeism find that they lose revenue they need to actually address the issues that cause chronic absenteeism.”

Portantino stressed that California is one of only six states that continue to fund based on a school’s average daily attendance over a year.

SB 830 would require districts to apply half of the additional money — the difference between lower funding generated by attendance and the higher amount from enrollment — to measures to address truancy and chronic absenteeism.

As a result, Portantino said he expects attendance would actually rise, because more resources would be committed to getting students to school.

Since the start of Covid, the state has protected districts from sharp increases in absences by letting them use pre-pandemic attendance levels. Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Finance are proposing to stick with attendance-based funding moving forward, but to allow districts to use a three-year rolling average of daily attendance to even out swings and declines in enrollment.

Saying that Newsom’s “heart is in the right place,” Portantino said he’s open to the option of a three-year average, too, but to apply it to enrollment, not attendance.

Leaders of three labor unions — California School Employees Association, Teamsters Local 856 and the Service Employees International Union  Local 99 — and Los Angeles Unified board President Kelly Gonez also attended the news conference. Gonez said that LAUSD would gain between $200 million and $300 million in funding if SB 830 were enacted.

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