News

Declining enrollment = declining revenue

Tri-Valley school districts could lose millions of dollars, forcing budget cuts

Pandemic-induced enrollment decreases could lead to a loss of revenue for school districts beginning next year, forcing budget cuts that will affect students and staff. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about how the pandemic has affected Tri-Valley public school districts.

Following a two-year stretch of leniency, Pleasanton Unified School District and other Tri-Valley districts face a potentially significant drop in revenue next year if the funding formula doesn't change to take into consideration a decrease in enrollment and effects of the pandemic on attendance.

The state uses average daily attendance (ADA) to calculate how much money each district receives. ADA takes into account not only enrollment but also how many students are in class every day.

Districts were also allowed to use their 2019-20 pre-pandemic attendance and enrollment to calculate their funding for the last two years. But starting in the fall of 2022, funding is set to return to the enrollment and attendance formula. Because enrollment has declined, and attendance is complicated by pandemic-related quarantine and independent study, this could mean a significant drop in revenue.

"The pandemic has affected enrollment and attendance in school districts across the state, introducing complexities into the process," PUSD Superintendent David Haglund said.

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Weekly, "The district has experienced an approximately 800-student drop from pre-pandemic times and are still funded and staffed based on 2019 numbers."

As of Jan. 12, enrollment at PUSD is 14,023 students, which Gannon called "a significant drop from pre-pandemic when we were (approximately) 14,500 to 14,800."

In his recently presented budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes an amendment to how the funding mechanism, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), apportionment is calculated to consider the greater of a school district's current year, prior year, or the average of three prior years' average daily attendance.

PUSD's absence rate pre-pandemic was approximately 3%. With the recent surge of COVID cases with the omicron variant, absences the first week back from the winter break in January average about 14% of the student population.

LCFF/property tax make up more than 74% of the district's revenue, with property taxes making up about 57% of the total LCFF apportionment.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

"Currently we are being funded and, therefore, staffed under pre-pandemic enrollment, which means we're staff based on our enrollment in 2019, and we know that we have a significant drop in enrollment," Gannon said.

According to a Dec. 9 2021-22 budget update to the PUSD board of trustees, if funding is based on current enrollment, PUSD could lose about $7 million in revenue beginning in 2022-23 due to the enrollment decline, a good portion of its budget. To put this in perspective, the 2021-22 budget is $190.3 million, which includes roughly $16.5 million in one-time pandemic-related funding.

However, Gannon said, "It's difficult to put a precise number on the impact to the budget just because there's so much that can change from now to May. All we can do is operate under what we know, which is the guidance that the (Alameda County Office of Education) is giving us, and that we need to operate under the way we've been funded."

While the district does not know exactly how much money they will lose, Gannon said, "the one thing we do know for certain is that every school district in California and probably the country are going to have to make some staffing adjustments, which is incredibly difficult."

But some changes have already been made according to the Dec. 9 report, which stated, "While the district has made some adjustments to staffing in 2021-22 further right-sizing of staffing will be needed in the coming years."

To mitigate concerns about COVID and help maintain enrollment and attendance numbers, PUSD created Pleasanton Virtual Academy, a supported Independent Study Program that allows students to learn from home while providing the prescribed amount of live instruction required for each grade level.

"PVA provides a robust and flexible learning environment for students that is developed and implemented by our world-class PUSD educators," Haglund said.

A parent volunteer at Bollinger Canyon teaches second-graders how to animate Google slides in December 2021. (Photo courtesy of SRVUSD)

Enrollment was already declining at San Ramon Valley Unified School District prior to the pandemic, according to officials.

"We are not looking at things right now through the lens of pre-pandemic versus during, and then post-pandemic," SRVUSD communications director Ilana Israel Samuels said. "As we have been watching this trend in enrollment patterns over the years, we have focused on budgeting effectively and maintaining our high standards for fiscal responsibility."

Public school enrollment in California dropped by more than 160,000 between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Migration patterns and low birth rates contributed to the annual decline before COVID, but enrollment for kindergarten -- which is not mandatory in California -- shrank by approximately 61,000 students during the pandemic. Most of the overall enrollment decline is attributed to the kindergarten enrollment decline.

Districts can be affected by budget cuts many ways including layoffs and the elimination of programs and services. The state has assisted districts through recovery this past year, including significant investments in K-12 education, though more ongoing funding has been allocated to districts with more at-risk students.

"For finances during the pandemic, it has of course been very helpful that the legislature has shielded us from revenue losses," Samuels said. "We are still evaluating the full data on enrollment, but we are hopeful that the disruptions to attendance caused by COVID will begin to lessen soon."

While ADA is used by the state to calculate the amount of funds paid to school districts each year, State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) recently introduced Senate Bill 830, which would issue funding based on annual enrollment and bring in $3 billion for California schools.

SRVUSD has been examining the bill, and "upon our initial evaluation, it is promising that it would provide us with supplemental funding to make up the difference in what we receive currently under LCFF due to lower enrollment," Samuels said.

The current version of SB 830 includes what SRVUSD calls "a caveat" that districts would be required "... to use at least 50% of (this) supplemental education funding to supplement existing (local education agencies) expenditures to address chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy."

"In a district like ours, where we already do an outstanding job preventing truancy and chronic absenteeism, 50% of the funding earmarked for this purpose would actually not be helpful for us as a solution to funding issues due to declining enrollment," Samuels said.

(Photo by Getty Images. Graphic design by Doug Young)

After students returned to classrooms in the fall of 2021, attendance was also affected by strict protocols for remote learning and isolation. Districts without an independent study option for students in quarantine were required to count them as absent, thereby losing attendance-based funding.

Newsom has proposed adding three options to the state budget to calculate funding -- current year enrollment, last year's enrollment, or a rolling three-year average. Based on a preliminary evaluation of Newsom's proposal, Samuels said, "The rolling three-year average would probably be the best option for SRVUSD."

SRVUSD is still evaluating their current enrollment numbers, including processing independent study contracts for students.

"We have already taken the necessary budget actions to account for less revenue coming in, if it ends up that the state takes no action," Samuels said. Those actions were shared with the Board of Trustees in the first interim financial report and approved last month.

"We will talk more as time goes on whether further budget adjustments are necessary," Samuels said. "Overall, it's really too soon to tell how the future will play out, but we are prepared for multiple scenarios."

Now it's a waiting game to see what happens with SB 830 and Newsom's budget.

"The way California's budget works, our budget planning is backwards because by law we have to provide employees notice if we're going to have to make reductions in March, and we don't know what the budget is actually going to be until May," Gannon said.

The situation is "nothing new," Gannon added, "but it puts school districts in a very difficult and uncomfortable spot. We're going to do the best we can and we'll try to think outside the box and be innovative."

Editor's note: Publisher Gina Channell Wilcox contributed to this story.

A front row seat to local high school sports.

Check out our new newsletter, the Playbook.

Looking for more Livermore stories? The Livermore Vine will be your new source of vital news and information. Sign up to be among the first to get our daily local news headlines sent to your inbox for free.

Follow PleasantonWeekly.com and the Pleasanton Weekly on Twitter @pleasantonnews, Facebook and on Instagram @pleasantonweekly for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Get uninterrupted access to important local political news. Become a member today.

Declining enrollment = declining revenue

Tri-Valley school districts could lose millions of dollars, forcing budget cuts

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jan 27, 2022, 6:58 pm

Editor's note: This is the second in a two-part series about how the pandemic has affected Tri-Valley public school districts.

Following a two-year stretch of leniency, Pleasanton Unified School District and other Tri-Valley districts face a potentially significant drop in revenue next year if the funding formula doesn't change to take into consideration a decrease in enrollment and effects of the pandemic on attendance.

The state uses average daily attendance (ADA) to calculate how much money each district receives. ADA takes into account not only enrollment but also how many students are in class every day.

Districts were also allowed to use their 2019-20 pre-pandemic attendance and enrollment to calculate their funding for the last two years. But starting in the fall of 2022, funding is set to return to the enrollment and attendance formula. Because enrollment has declined, and attendance is complicated by pandemic-related quarantine and independent study, this could mean a significant drop in revenue.

"The pandemic has affected enrollment and attendance in school districts across the state, introducing complexities into the process," PUSD Superintendent David Haglund said.

PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Weekly, "The district has experienced an approximately 800-student drop from pre-pandemic times and are still funded and staffed based on 2019 numbers."

As of Jan. 12, enrollment at PUSD is 14,023 students, which Gannon called "a significant drop from pre-pandemic when we were (approximately) 14,500 to 14,800."

In his recently presented budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposes an amendment to how the funding mechanism, Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), apportionment is calculated to consider the greater of a school district's current year, prior year, or the average of three prior years' average daily attendance.

PUSD's absence rate pre-pandemic was approximately 3%. With the recent surge of COVID cases with the omicron variant, absences the first week back from the winter break in January average about 14% of the student population.

LCFF/property tax make up more than 74% of the district's revenue, with property taxes making up about 57% of the total LCFF apportionment.

"Currently we are being funded and, therefore, staffed under pre-pandemic enrollment, which means we're staff based on our enrollment in 2019, and we know that we have a significant drop in enrollment," Gannon said.

According to a Dec. 9 2021-22 budget update to the PUSD board of trustees, if funding is based on current enrollment, PUSD could lose about $7 million in revenue beginning in 2022-23 due to the enrollment decline, a good portion of its budget. To put this in perspective, the 2021-22 budget is $190.3 million, which includes roughly $16.5 million in one-time pandemic-related funding.

However, Gannon said, "It's difficult to put a precise number on the impact to the budget just because there's so much that can change from now to May. All we can do is operate under what we know, which is the guidance that the (Alameda County Office of Education) is giving us, and that we need to operate under the way we've been funded."

While the district does not know exactly how much money they will lose, Gannon said, "the one thing we do know for certain is that every school district in California and probably the country are going to have to make some staffing adjustments, which is incredibly difficult."

But some changes have already been made according to the Dec. 9 report, which stated, "While the district has made some adjustments to staffing in 2021-22 further right-sizing of staffing will be needed in the coming years."

To mitigate concerns about COVID and help maintain enrollment and attendance numbers, PUSD created Pleasanton Virtual Academy, a supported Independent Study Program that allows students to learn from home while providing the prescribed amount of live instruction required for each grade level.

"PVA provides a robust and flexible learning environment for students that is developed and implemented by our world-class PUSD educators," Haglund said.

Enrollment was already declining at San Ramon Valley Unified School District prior to the pandemic, according to officials.

"We are not looking at things right now through the lens of pre-pandemic versus during, and then post-pandemic," SRVUSD communications director Ilana Israel Samuels said. "As we have been watching this trend in enrollment patterns over the years, we have focused on budgeting effectively and maintaining our high standards for fiscal responsibility."

Public school enrollment in California dropped by more than 160,000 between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Migration patterns and low birth rates contributed to the annual decline before COVID, but enrollment for kindergarten -- which is not mandatory in California -- shrank by approximately 61,000 students during the pandemic. Most of the overall enrollment decline is attributed to the kindergarten enrollment decline.

Districts can be affected by budget cuts many ways including layoffs and the elimination of programs and services. The state has assisted districts through recovery this past year, including significant investments in K-12 education, though more ongoing funding has been allocated to districts with more at-risk students.

"For finances during the pandemic, it has of course been very helpful that the legislature has shielded us from revenue losses," Samuels said. "We are still evaluating the full data on enrollment, but we are hopeful that the disruptions to attendance caused by COVID will begin to lessen soon."

While ADA is used by the state to calculate the amount of funds paid to school districts each year, State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) recently introduced Senate Bill 830, which would issue funding based on annual enrollment and bring in $3 billion for California schools.

SRVUSD has been examining the bill, and "upon our initial evaluation, it is promising that it would provide us with supplemental funding to make up the difference in what we receive currently under LCFF due to lower enrollment," Samuels said.

The current version of SB 830 includes what SRVUSD calls "a caveat" that districts would be required "... to use at least 50% of (this) supplemental education funding to supplement existing (local education agencies) expenditures to address chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy."

"In a district like ours, where we already do an outstanding job preventing truancy and chronic absenteeism, 50% of the funding earmarked for this purpose would actually not be helpful for us as a solution to funding issues due to declining enrollment," Samuels said.

After students returned to classrooms in the fall of 2021, attendance was also affected by strict protocols for remote learning and isolation. Districts without an independent study option for students in quarantine were required to count them as absent, thereby losing attendance-based funding.

Newsom has proposed adding three options to the state budget to calculate funding -- current year enrollment, last year's enrollment, or a rolling three-year average. Based on a preliminary evaluation of Newsom's proposal, Samuels said, "The rolling three-year average would probably be the best option for SRVUSD."

SRVUSD is still evaluating their current enrollment numbers, including processing independent study contracts for students.

"We have already taken the necessary budget actions to account for less revenue coming in, if it ends up that the state takes no action," Samuels said. Those actions were shared with the Board of Trustees in the first interim financial report and approved last month.

"We will talk more as time goes on whether further budget adjustments are necessary," Samuels said. "Overall, it's really too soon to tell how the future will play out, but we are prepared for multiple scenarios."

Now it's a waiting game to see what happens with SB 830 and Newsom's budget.

"The way California's budget works, our budget planning is backwards because by law we have to provide employees notice if we're going to have to make reductions in March, and we don't know what the budget is actually going to be until May," Gannon said.

The situation is "nothing new," Gannon added, "but it puts school districts in a very difficult and uncomfortable spot. We're going to do the best we can and we'll try to think outside the box and be innovative."

Editor's note: Publisher Gina Channell Wilcox contributed to this story.

Comments

John B
Registered user
Foothill High School
on Jan 28, 2022 at 10:57 am
John B, Foothill High School
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 10:57 am

It's a common cause across Cupertino, Plesanton etc where the housing market is gotten beyond affordability. Cupertino has to close two schools. Young families cannot afford to buy a 3BR or 4BR house. Only very high income families can afford and they have funds to send private schools, resulting drop in public schools. These funds are going to Tracy school district as many young families are migrated to Tracy and have an affordable SFR. These funds are needed there and exactly reflects the state policy. After years of NIMBY attitude (and still going on..) by Plesanton city council, what do you expect. These city councils come and go, but the big impact to be borne by citizens. City should embrace SB9, SB10 and embrace them with full heart and help citizens to increase the housing production, so that young families can come back and thrive. Hoping for the best.


buklau
Registered user
Avila
on Jan 28, 2022 at 1:31 pm
buklau, Avila
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 1:31 pm

The average working class family cannot afford the 1 million (at least) cost homes in Pleasanton. Boomers were fortunate they bought the houses decades ago and now can sell them for 5-10x what they bought them for. But who are they selling to? Working class American families?

The key to any successful state is a strong middle class. This revenue decline is just the tip of the iceberg.


Joe Reed
Registered user
Vintage Hills
on Jan 28, 2022 at 4:36 pm
Joe Reed, Vintage Hills
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Quality of schools is a key issue for parents here in Pleasanton. A new candidate for Congress in our district, Steve Iyer, will be meeting voters in the district on Main St next to the Farmer's Market Saturday, 29 January - Please come talk to Steve about the issues!


Michael Austin
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 28, 2022 at 6:49 pm
Michael Austin , Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 6:49 pm

Speaking of candidate for congress:

Biden will nominate a black woman for the supreme court.

President Donald Trump nominated Ada E. Brown a United States District judge, a black woman for the northern district of Texas.

Thirteen democrats voted against her nomination.
They were Charles Schumer, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, Maria Cantwell, Tammy Baldwin, Sherod Brown, Cathine Masto Cortez, Kristen Gillibrand, Edward Markey, Patty Murray, Brian Schatz, Debbie Stabenow, Ron Wyden.

Among those not voting for the nomination. Kamal Harris, Cory Hooker, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Bernard Sanders, Pat Roberts.

Will those Twenty senators support Bidens nominee for the US Supreme Court?


Pton Resident
Registered user
Foothill High School
on Jan 28, 2022 at 9:11 pm
Pton Resident, Foothill High School
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2022 at 9:11 pm

Declining enrollment = fewer students to teach. Schools don't need money for students who don't attend those public schools.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 29, 2022 at 8:51 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Jan 29, 2022 at 8:51 pm

It’s definitely wrong to penalize the schools for low enrollment or attendance based on the last two years and currently.

What I found particularly interesting about the article wording was the “public school” specificity. Are private schools seeing similar declines? If not, the problem is declining quality of education forcing people (that can) into the private school system.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.