With the state’s huge budget surplus, schools have been awash in funding, but the federal money will dry up after the current year and the long-term funding allocation is based on student enrollment. That’s the problem. Enrollment has been dropping as the birth rate has dropped and also more parents are opting for other educational opportunities for their children.
Both San Francisco and Oakland public schools are getting extra oversight to ensure that budgets are brought into balance. Oakland had appealed the focus from the Alameda County Office of Education, but lost its bid to duck that Monday.
Here locally, Pleasanton’s enrollment at the elementary level has dropped three years in a row. Spokesman Patrick Gannon wrote that the district is down about 800 students. The declining elementary enrollment is the key reason the district has delayed its plan to build a second school on the Donlon site. Given the current trends, it will not be needed in the short term.
Longer term, depending on construction of new housing, that may change. The city of Pleasanton is being required by the state to zone land for nearly 6,000 additional dwelling units. It currently has 29,344 so that will be a huge percentage increase if units are actually built. The city’s demographic report said the city grew 13.15% from 2010-21 and predicted a 4.42% rate for the next five years.
Just how that prediction plays out with the combination of the state zoning requirements and the willingness of builders to construct new homes—will they pencil with the sky-high materials costs and labor shortages?
Meanwhile, the school district will have to cope with a declining budget because enrollment has fallen. Unlike other Tri-Valley districts, Pleasanton does not have a local revenue source such as a parcel tax that is immune to state budget fluctuations.
A sidenote: Among the material Gannon sent me was an ethnic breakdown of the district. Currently about 50% of the students are of Asian descent. About 30% of them come from India, while more than 13% come from China. Other students from other Asian countries make up the other 6%.
It’s amazing how quickly the ethnicity of the student population has shifted as their parents move into town as existing neighborhoods roll over again. People are coming here for the same reasons many of us did—quality public schools, quality of life and a great place to raise a family.