Drop In Attendance Has MUSD Mulling How To Rein In Truancy

Truancy is significantly reducing the revenue available for educational operations in the 7,361-student Morongo Unified School District.
The reinstitution of classic school funding based upon daily student attendance has hit the 16-school district harder than most others.
In California, the state currently pays each school district $71.85 for each student attending school per day. In a 180-school day year, a district would therefore receive $12,933 for educating a student who had perfect attendance, that is, being present all 180 days. Most students do not achieve perfect attendance. On average, students across the board in California miss an average of just under 11 days per year. Thus, schools in California average $12,142.65 yearly for the students they educate.
The more times a student is absent, the less money flows to the school and district where he or she attends.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, attendance within Morongo Unified was less than stellar, at 94.4 percent. That was slightly lower than the state average, but no worse than a fair number of other districts, and better than some.
The pandemic threw all school districts throughout the state for a loop, as the remote learning approach was suddenly in vogue and some districts coped more readily than others in not only adapting to the new methodology but in being able to engage all or a majority of its students in participating in a virtual learning environment. Similarly, some districts did better than others in monitoring and documenting students’ on-line attendance. In some cases, it was extremely difficult if not impossible to determine if a student was indeed participating in remote collective learning encounters. The bugs needed to be ironed out in the new process and the California Department of Education allowed districts a certain leeway in how they made students check-in to the electronic classroom. To assist school districts from unfairly losing funding, the state allowed districts to utilize a three-year average of student attendance to qualify for the new form of cyber-based funding.
With the move to return to traditional classroom settings for many districts in the first semester of Academic Year 2021-22, the return to traditional classroom settings for most districts/schools in the second semester of Academic Year 2021-22 and the complete retransition to traditional classroom settings for all California school districts in 2022-23, the state has dispensed with rolling averages, which districts were using to artificially increase their average daily attendance and, thus, the money they were taking in.
The remote learning model that was instituted late in the 2019-2020 school year and then remained in place throughout Academic Year 2020-21 resulted in students and parents coming to accept nonattendance and intermittent attendance. In many households with two working parents or in single parent households in which that parent was employed, parental monitoring of a student’s remote learning experience was virtually nonexistent. In those households where a parent was around, some students would simulate participating in the electronic classroom but would actually engage themselves in some other cybernetic activity.
A minority of these have developed a disaffinity for school and education altogether. Some malinger whenever they can to avoid going to school.
In Morongo Unified, the 94.4 percent attendance of 2018-19 and the first semester of 2019-20 would later comes across as dedicated scholarship. Average daily attendance since that time has slipped to 89.9 percent.
According to a report to the Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees by Director of Fiscal Services Faith Segovia, in the just ended 2023-24 academic year, the district’s 7,361 students achieved a daily attendance of 7,199 students. That was an impressive 97.8 percent attendance. That netted the district $103.5 million in payments for student attendance. But what it reflected was many high school seniors and juniors who have been slacking for some time getting serious about what they had to do to graduate.
Based upon an analysis of who the diligent students are and who are the slackers, 2024-25 looks to be a rough year financially for the district. With an anticipated total enrollment of 7,321 beginning in August, if past attendance patterns hold true, Morongo Unified will likely experience an average daily attendance of 6,767, meaning its funding from the state will drop to $98.7 million, an anticipated loss of $4.7 million, according to Segovia.
For that reason, the district may make some emergency expenditures in hiring one or two or three very aggressive truant officers.

Leave a Reply