A South Bay MP has tabled a package of legislative proposals to help state school districts cope with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Assembly Laws 1607, 1609 and 1614 would give the districts the financial stability they need to keep the schools running through the public health crisis.
“We must do everything we can to support our schools, our families and our children during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” Councilor Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, said in a statement when his office announced the three bills earlier this month. . “School districts should be kept tax-free from short-term attendance declines as more and more students get sick.”
AB 1607 would require average daily attendance to be calculated based on the current and previous two fiscal years, beginning with the 2022-23 school year.
Under current law, the state only uses average daily attendance for the most recent academic year to calculate how many funding districts receive. The more students out of school, the less money a district gets.
AB 1609 would tax school districts from short-term attendance drops during the pandemic, extending the state’s previous innocuous rule for absenteeism.
And AB 1614 would add $4.2 billion to the state’s core funding for schools for fiscal year 2022-2023. The Legislative Analyst Agency recently forecast that an additional $9.5 billion will be available for the school district’s running costs in the 2022-23 state budget, Muratsuchi’s press release said.
School districts across the state have been asking for an increase in core funding for years to give them more flexibility, Muratsuchi said. An increase in the basic grant would also lead to a jump in additional subsidies.
AB 1614, if envisioned, would also aim to place California in the top 10 states in K-12 spending per student, according to Muratsuchi’s release.
The pandemic caused both enrollment and attendance to drop in California’s school districts.
For example, enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District dropped by more than 20,000 students from the 2019-20 to 2020-21 academic year, according to state education data.
LAUSD officials support the proposed legislation, a district spokesperson said.
Enrollments fell by more than 1,000 from 2019-20 to 2020-21 for both Garden Grove Unified, in Orange County, and Riverside Unified; those districts are about 14 times smaller than LAUSD, so a drop in enrollment of 1,000 students for them is much more significant.
By contrast, enrollment in all three of those districts remained relatively stable from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
RUSD has also seen a slight drop in visitor numbers in the past year, district spokeswoman Diana Meza said.
“Attendance and enrollment declines are always a concern, especially during a pandemic,” Meza said. Our focus is to provide engaging, innovative and equitable learning experiences for all students and to have balanced systems to manage the fluctuations (attendance and enrollment).
RUSD officials, Meza added, believe districts need the “soft landing” Muratsuchi’s accounts would provide.
Enrollment in all three districts, but remained relatively stable from 2017-18 to 2019-20, with the coronavirus being cited as the cause of decline thereafter.
Muratsuchi presented AB 1607 to the General Assembly on January 4, and the other two bills the next day.
The bills could have the first parliamentary committee hearings early next month.