LA's Push To Get Kids Into School is Not About the Money?
The fact that the LA schools would fold if parents homeschooled their children or held a general strike has nothing to do with the initiative to get the children into school at all costs?
July 9, 2004
Schools Push for Higher Attendance:
L.A. Unified officials hope to gain $29 million by cutting absence rate by one percentage point.
By Cara Mia DiMassa, Times Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Unified School District kicked off a new push to boost student attendance Thursday, a move that officials hope will bring at least $29 million in extra state revenue to the budget-crunched district.
The district aims to improve attendance through a public relations campaign and giving students with high attendance rates such incentives as special assemblies and field trips. In addition, individual campuses would share in any extra funds.
Overall, the nation's second-largest school district, which has about 750,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, reports an average daily attendance rate of 93.5%. Officials want to raise that to above 95%. However, attendance at high schools hovers around 90%, much lower than in other urban California school systems, district officials said. Each day, 30,000 middle and high school students in the Los Angeles district are absent.
Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer said he hopes the effort will remind parents, students, teachers and the community of the academic and financial benefits of getting students to school. It is a matter, he said, "of having it first on our minds when we come to work every day."
Because the state funds schools based on average daily attendance - about $26 per student per day - increased attendance could bring a windfall to the district. Officials have promised to give schools that boost attendance half of the additional funds instead of putting them into the general fund.
While shooting for a two-percentage-point improvement in attendance, Romer and other officials have included a more conservative one-point increase, to 94.5%, in the 2004-05 budget.
Such an increase would bring $29 million in additional state revenue. Half already has been committed to balancing the district's bottom line.
Each one-point increase would require that each student in the district show up for two days more per year.
There is some doubt whether that goal is feasible. Jannelle Kuninec, an advisor to the school board on budget matters, called an improvement to 94.5% ambitious. "There is very little margin for error," she said, warning them against counting too much on the extra cash.
The board will consider a motion next week, proposed by members Marlene Canter and Jon Lauritzen, outlining more specific ways to boost attendance. Among the possibilities are expanded partnerships with law enforcement to reduce truancy, possible changes in the way student suspensions are carried out and allowing attendance to be a factor in grading.
Norm Morrow, principal of Thomas Jefferson High, said his school's recent emphasis on smaller learning groups has already improved attendance.
Teachers and administrators realize that there's "a big correlation between being in school and academic success," Morrow said. "And that's what we should be all about.... We'd love to get the [additional] money, but that isn't the issue. We just want to get kids in school. This is their ticket to a better quality of life in the future."