A California state senator is sponsoring a bill that could dramatically change the way school districts in the state are funded.
Senate Bill 830, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), would base state funding on a school district's enrollment, instead of its daily attendance.
"Many of those school districts hit the hardest on attendance are the districts that are challenged with performing students, under-represented students," said Portantino. "So we're disproportionately penalizing those school districts that actually need the resources the most."
Truancy, especially in the face of a pandemic, has been a challenge for school districts - one that not only hurts the students who skip out on classes, but for all the students in the district. Overall funding for the district sinks when attendance drops.
"Absences cause districts to lose money," Portantino told Eyewitness News. "If five kids don't show up and you're going to lose $22 a kid, that's $100 a day you're losing for that one classroom."
Portantino says California is one of only six states that fund schools based on attendance. The other states are Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky and Texas. He admits some school districts will do better than others under his plan, but says no districts will lose funding.
"This is only going to have winners," he explained. "We're going to write into the legislation that no district will lose money. We think that every single district in the state of California is going to benefit from this."
The California School Employees Association, with nearly a quarter million members, is supporting the bill, as is the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Los Angeles Unified School Board President Kelly Gonez says L.A. students will benefit greatly from enrollment-based funding.
"Right now, we lose about $200 million annually because of the difference between enrollment and average daily attendance," Gonez said.
Portantino's goal is to have the education funding change up and running for the start of the 2023-24 school year.
It's expected to cost at least $3 billion a year. Portantino says that would come from California's expected $31 billion surplus.