Written by William Hekman
School districts all around the state are waiting patiently for Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget, and many are already growing worried. Some districts could lose millions of dollars, in a time in which schools need it more than ever.
Funding for schools in California is based on attendance, however, that could change with a bill being proposed in the legislature. For the last two years, schools were not penalized for enrollment during COVID. But this year, funding is being recalibrated for current enrollment, and California is already seeing a big drop in enrollment, particularly in kindergarten. Enrollment dropped massively over the last two years. Many parents who stayed with their children to witness their classes realized that public school was not the best option and are now choosing to send their children to private schools or homeschool. San Marcos Unified superintendent Andy Johnsen said, “I’ve never ever seen a drop in enrollment come all at once like this. The pandemic changed everything.” The state had allowed school districts to use pre-pandemic enrollment numbers for funding for the last two years, but come fall of 2022, they will have to use their current numbers.
Districts like San Bernardino City Unified are expected to lose $27 million in funding due to enrollment decline. The district currently has a budget of $971 million. Associate Superintendent Harold Sullins said, “Last year, we declined by 2,000 students. That’s about eight years’ worth of decline.” The loss in funding could lead to employees being laid off and programs like music and art being cut. Enrollment in K-12 had been on a steady decline from 2016 to 2019, with 6,163,001 students being enrolled in the 2019-2020 year. But the number of students enrolled dropped all the way to 6,002,523 in 2020-2021.
Parents have been pulling their kids out of public school and instead enrolling them in private or charter schools, and for a number of reasons. Some school districts are still using remote learning, affecting many parents and their already busy schedules. Schools should be answering to the parents of the children they teach, not the unions who seem to be making all of the decisions.
Photo Cred: Milan Kovacevic/ KPBS