A package of proposed laws has been introduced by a South Bay Assemblyman to help the state’s school districts deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Assembly Bills 1607, 1609, and 1614 will provide districts with the financial stability they need to keep schools running during 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,” Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, Democrat from Torrance, said as his office announced the three bills at the start this month. “School districts need to be financially protected from short-term declines in attendance as more and more students fall ill.”
AB 1607 requires the calculation of average daily attendance based on the current and previous two fiscal years, beginning in the 2022-23 school year.
Under current law, the state only uses average daily attendance for the most recent school year to calculate how much funding districts receive. The more students out of school, the less money the district receives.
AB 1609 will make school districts financially safe from short-term declines in attendance during a pandemic by expanding on the state’s previous harmless loss of attendance rule.
And AB 1614 will add $4.2 billion to the state’s base grant funding for schools for fiscal year 2022-2023. The Office of the Legislative Analyst recently projected that there would be an additional $9.5 billion in the state budget for 2022-2023 for the school district’s operating expenses, Muratsuchi said in a press release.
School districts across the state have been calling for more funding for basic grants for years to give them more flexibility, Muratsuchi said. An increase in the base grant will also cause a jump in additional grants.
AB 1614, if passed, would also aim to put California in the top 10 states for K-12 spending per student, Muratsuchi said in the post.
The pandemic has resulted in a decline in enrollment and attendance in California school districts.
Los Angeles Unified School District enrollment, for example, dropped by more than 20,000 students from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-2021 school year, according to state education data.
LAUSD officials support the proposed law, a spokesman for the county said.
Enrollment declined by more than 1,000 from 2019–20 to 2020–21 at both Garden Grove Unified schools in Orange County and Riverside Unified; these districts are about 14 times smaller than LAUSD, so the reduction in enrollment per 1,000 students is much greater for them.
In contrast, enrollment in all three districts has remained relatively stable from 2017–18 to 2019–20.
RUSD also saw a slight decline in attendance last year, according to county spokesperson Diane Meza.
“A drop in attendance and enrollment is always a concern, especially during a pandemic,” Meza said. Our goal is to provide an engaging, innovative and fair learning experience for all students and to have balanced systems to manage fluctuations in attendance and enrollment.”
RUSD officials, Meza added, believe counties need the “soft landing” that Muratsuchi’s bills have provided.
However, enrollment in all three districts remained relatively stable from 2017-18 to 2019-2020, after which the coronavirus was cited as the reason for the decline.
Muratsuchi introduced AB 1607 to the Assembly on January 4, and two other bills the following day.
Bills could go through initial Assembly committee hearings early next month.