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Fallbrook High suffers dropping daily attendance, budget cuts

For the third year in a row, Fallbrook Union High School (FUHS) is facing financial cutbacks by both the state and district because of continual drops in average daily attendance.

FUHS assistant principal John Hayek, who is in charge of student attendance, stated that not only does a student’s attendance allow for academic success, but also allows the high school adequate funding.

“When a student leaves for vacation on a Thursday night, missing school on Friday, that hurts us,” said Hayek. “When a parent decides to allow their child to miss a whole day of school for a doctor’s appointment in San Diego, it hurts us. While it doesn’t seem like a lot of money, these amounts add up.”

The average daily attendance at FUHS has been in a steady decline for the past three years, said Hayek.

In the 2007-2008 academic school year, the state of California paid FUHS $6,686.10 per student for the student’s average daily attendance, assuming the student attended everyday.

In the 2008-2009 academic school year, the amount paid per student for their average daily attendance should have gone up to $7,065.10 annually, but instead was multiplied by a deficit of .92156, lowering the per student allotment to $6,501.91.

For the current (2009-2010) academic year, the average daily attendance paid by the state to the high school should be $7,365.10, said Hayek. However, with a budget reduction of $254 per student, as well as an additional deficit of .81645, the school’s revenue limit per student is at $5,805.86.

The declining student enrollment is able to be projected by looking at the student populations at the feeder elementary and junior high schools.

“We are down 150 students from the 2008-2009 school year and it is projected that we will be down another 150 by the Spring of 2011,” said Hayek. “With declining enrollment and average daily attendance revenue limit headed in the wrong direction, there is no more critical time than the present for students to attend school everyday.”

Hayek is primarily concerned for the students’ success. However, if the financial situation does not improve, classes, school programs, and activities may be cut or reduced.

“My goal in sharing this information is to bring awareness to the community about the importance of children attending school each day for three reasons - academic success, staying out of trouble, and the financial implications to the district,” said Hayek. “I am not qualified, nor responsible, for commenting on the District’s financial situation.”

Hayek stated that FUHS strives to have 95 percent of its 2,723 students on campus during school hours.

“Last year, we were at 94.75 percent,” he said.

But with illnesses such as the H1N1 and seasonal viruses affecting the student population, Hayek believes the only way to offset the lost income for the ill students is by having the rest of the student population not be absent.

Only about one percent of the student population is truant at any given time, said Hayek, which comes down to about four or five students a month.

“We talk to students at the beginning of each year at student senate meetings about ‘ditching,” said Hayek. “I don’t think they understand the full impact that going to school has, which is why we emphasize success in school.”

Hayek said the high school also takes preemptive strikes against days when multiple students ditch school together, such as what happens on “Senior Ditch Day.”

“We get word from the street about when the students are planning a ditch day, and send out a call to parents,” explained Hayek. “We’ve actually had success with this.”

Hayek stated that the high school can lose up to $15,000 per senior ditch day.

“The seniors make up a third of the population. You notice when those kids aren’t here,” he said.

“We just want to spread awareness,” continued Hayek. “We want students to understand that what impact they have when they extend their holiday breaks an extra week. It may not seem like a lot, but that’s just money we don’t see.”

According to Fallbrook Union High School District assistant superintendent Chet Gannett, there are two methods in which the state can pay a school for average daily attendance. The primary option involves the high school district giving the state three attendance reports - on the fourth, seventh and final month of the academic year.

After each report, the state pays the school for each student’s daily attendance, adjusting the amounts for a growth or decline in student enrollment.

When a school suffers several years of declining enrollment, administration can choose to be paid for the school’s average daily attendance of students for seventh month of the previous year.

“This means the current year’s attendance does not impact the budget’s amount of revenue,” said Gannett. “We try to build up our attendance because a low attendance will have an impact on next year’s budget.”

If the district were to experience a growth in attendance, they could then opt to be paid on the primary pay system.

Gannett stated he is anxious to see what decisions are made by the state for the upcoming year’s budget.

“[For the past three years,] we have had to use some of our reserves and make budget reductions,” admitted Gannett. “That’s the reality, but we have been financially responsible. I’m just as anxious to hear what the governor decides [regarding the educational budget] as everyone else.”

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