As Giants Celebrate Victory, City Schools Lose Out

Image courtesy of timlewisnm / Flickr

Image courtesy of timlewisnm / Flickr

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The San Francisco Unified School District missed out on more than $100,000 in future funding Wednesday, as attendance numbers in the Mission District and other parts of the city plummeted because students skipped school to join the Giants for the team’s World Series celebration.

“They want their kids to go to the parade. It’s taken over the city,” Norma Gamino, the attendance secretary at John O’Connell High School, said Wednesday.

Administrators, she added, fought with parents all morning on Wednesday about pulling their children out.

The high school has an attendance rate of 598 students on a normal day, but approximately half were absent on the day of the parade.

San Francisco Unified School District receives $37.75 per student per day from the state this year. Every day a child is absent from school, the district effectively loses out on that money.

Average year-to-date attendance for schools in the district hover around 96 to 97 percent of total student enrollment. District-wide on Wednesday, there were 3,222 more students absent than usual. That totals a potential loss of $121,630 in next year’s funding.

The state uses average daily attendance numbers, rather than total enrollment, to determine future funding. The logic is that funding is based on how many students schools need to educate. Normal attendance fluctuates, but when it takes big drops, the impact will be felt in funding the next year.

With half of John O’Connell’s students gone, the school contributed more than $11,000 to the district’s total loss.

“With parents, we hope we’re on the same page,” said another John O’Connell administrator, talking about the need for families to make attendance a priority for students.  “But it’s a struggle. Parents will lie, making excuses it’s just personal.”

Despite years of decline, daily attendance averages have leveled out in San Francisco, according to the school district. But with the large state deficits, including what is expected to be upwards of $12 billion for the next budget, the amount of money school districts receive has dropped significantly in recent years.

The $37.75 the district receives this year is a 10 percent drop from its 2009-2010 allocation, according to Gentle Blythe, San Francisco Unified’s public outreach and communications director.

Not all Mission schools were hit with significant drops. Educators at Cesar Chavez Elementary and Bryant Elementary School felt they didn’t see much difference in attendance. “We had one parent brave enough to say we’re taking our child out for the parade,” a Bryant Elementary administrator said Wednesday morning.

Other, smaller schools were not as lucky. Horace Mann Middle School had nearly one third of its student body out, Edison Charter Academy had 30 students absent and June Jordan School for Equity in the Excelsior District had 34 students absent. On a normal day, only two to three children are no-shows at June Jordan.

Mission High School, which has a normal attendance of 875, had 100 kids absent. That number is approximately 50 percent more than its average tally.

Gamino said that some parents at John O’Connell called because they thought changes in public transportation service or large crowds would prevent them from getting children to school. Many, however, admitted bluntly that they wanted to take their families to see the parade.

7 Comments

  1. CarolineSF

    As an SFUSD parent who’s guilty as charged (though not at a Mission District school), I just have to ask: would anyone REALLY begrudge our kids this?

  2. doggz

    Well, maybe if the district could become fiscally responsible and get enough property tax to be a “basic aid” school, they wouldn’t have to worry about hoovering the state for money.

  3. MG

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to use median daily attendance, rather than mean? Outliers like a parade day wouldn’t matter.

  4. ResponsibleParentSF

    Obviously, truancy matters and the following is not intended to get kids out of school, but… parents need to know the ‘right’ way to skip school for those unusual times they must take kids out of school, say for the World Series Parade!!
    If you say the kid is sick or visiting a sick relative, that is an excused absence, and does not affect school attendance or funding. All other absences are unexcused, and hurt daily attendance reimbursements.
    We learned this last year when we left a few day early for holiday vacation. We told all the teachers, admins, got makeup homework, etc, to make sure our daughter didn’t fall behind. Still, soon thereafter, we got a truancy notice in the mail threatening action due to high number of missed days. Lesson learned.
    For the parade, we told the teacher the truth, got homework in on time, etc. BUT, we listed our daughter as sick ‘officially’ at the front office. Everyone wins.

  5. David

    No CarolineSF. But they would begrudge their parents, who are responsible for them.

  6. Jason W

    I used to work with SFUSD. I understand that money was lost as a part of the loss in average daily attendance. That said, the SFUSD and the schools could have chosen to use this as an opportunity for teambuilding, to engage parents, and build school spirit. Imagine if the solution to this would have been field trips from the schools to the parade with parents acting as chaperones. SFUSD could have worked with the organizers of the parade to find a way to section off an area specifically for SFUSD field trips. This would have solved (not completely I know but definitely drastically) the issue. You could still count them as being in school and report that back to the state. The problem with SFUSD, and mostly why I left, is because these types of solutions are NEVER looked at. It is always something wrong, a deficit.

    Our city finally had a major win that united across neighborhoods, ethnicities, genders, classes, and sexual orientations. That is something to be celebrated. And the school district could learn something about what that does for achievement. Too often the solution is complaining, demonizing, or criminalizing.

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