Average Daily Attendance: the importance to schools
|Holly Egan takes attendance in her agriculture economics class at Lassen High School Friday, Jan. 25. Schools receive state revenue limit funding based on Average Daily Attendance. Lassen High loses $38 each day per student who is absent. Photo by Ruth Ellis|
Jan. 29, 2013 — Missing school not only cuts into a child’s education, it can also be detrimental to a school’s revenue stream.
California schools receive state revenue limit funding based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA) and the Lassen Union High School District (LUHSD) loses $38 a day for each student who is absent.
LUHSD Chief Business Officer Debbie Fry said, “ADA is the actual students in school. They call it ‘butts in seats,’ The students who attend school earn ADA. If they’re not in school for any reason other than school business, we’re not earning ADA.”
School business includes co-curricular and extra-curricular activities such as FBLA, FFA and sports.
Basing calculations on 1,000 students, to make the number round, and a 92.49 percent attendance rate, Fry said each student missed an average of 14 days last year.
This resulted in a loss of $532,000.
Fry explained ADA is different than enrollment as that is the number of students registered to attend school — the number the district has to staff for, provide facilities for and offer food and transportation services to.
All of the expenses come off enrollment, and revenue is based on ADA, according to Fry. If the attendance loss was reduced by half, the district would recover a quarter of a million dollars, according to Fry.
To put it into perspective, she said, $250,000 is the entire cost of the athletic program.
At Janesville School, superintendent/principal Zach Thurman said there were 2,922 absences last year resulting in a $81,436.14 loss.
Susanville School District (SSD), Chief Business Officer Michelle Brown said with 1,050 students, each child averaged 11 days gone from school.
Both Fry and Janesville School Chief Business Officer Ginger Fitzgerald said if the schools could reduce the ADA loss, schools could use the funding to pay for another staff member.
Fry also said the additional funding could help reduce class sizes and would protect programs, but the first priority would be cutting the deficit.
Last year’s deficit for the LUHSD was $219,000. For the 2013-2014 budget, the LUHSD is currently looking at cutting $308,000.
If Janesville School hadn’t lost the ADA money, it wouldn’t be in deficit spending as Fitzgerald said last year’s general fund deficit was $77,268.
According to Fry, most absences at the LUHSD were excused, with 75 percent of them showing up as sick, doctor’s appointment or attending a funeral.
Only a small percent show up as unexcused, which is considered truancy.
At Janesville School, Thurman said most of the absences are excused with 396 non-excused absences.
But one misconception is schools receive money if parents call in and report an excused absence.
“Our parents were trained to call in and excuse our absences and that still goes on,” Fry said. But she continued, “When I talk to parents that excused absences don’t mean any difference as far as payment to the schools they’re shocked because we’ve been trained one way, the law changed years ago and we’re still assuming that schools are getting paid when we make those phone calls. And we’re really not.”
She said, “Some absences can’t be avoided. What’s happened is that our attendance rate has just continually gone down instead of stabilizing. We used to be stable around the 96 percent range.”
Fry said the district doesn’t know why the attendance rate is down and it is also occurring county-wide.
One way people can help is if a student has to travel out of town for an appointment, a parent or guardian should bring him or her to school first, let them check in with the teacher and stay through the attendance period, Fry said.
“And then if they have to leave, check them out,” she said.
When students are gone in the afternoon, Fry said it matters because they are losing in the learning, but as far as the dollars go, it doesn’t matter as much..
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