Covering School Funding in Time of Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has interfered with many functions that could result in long-term changes. At-home workers might become more plentiful after the crisis passes (perhaps even helping to solve the problem of crowded freeways); limited sports seasons may lead to fewer games in the future on basketball and baseball schedules; and even consideration of California’s school funding through Average Daily Attendance might get a second look.

Governor Gavin Newsom said it is probable that schools will remain closed throughout the remainder of the school year.

Newsom expects the federal government to provide waivers to school districts which receive federal funds using school attendance as a factor.

Likewise, the legislature has prepared to keep the school districts financially whole by passing AB 117 to offset any loss of funding because of COVID-19 school closures. The bill states that the bill would deem instructional days and minutes requirements met during the period when schools are closed due to the virus.

California schools are funded on the basis of Average Daily Attendance (ADA). The ADA is calculated on the number of children actually in attendance in a school or district each day school is taught. Without state and federal intervention to change the rules, schools’ budgets would be devastated.

The advantage of ADA is that school authorities and parents will see to it that students attend classes.

Like regulations in other fields of endeavor, the school funding rules have fallen, at least temporarily, to the virus’s interference with normal circumstances.

While a handful of states use ADA as a funding calculus, a larger number of states base funding on Average Daily Membership (ADM). ADM is based on total school enrollment so if attendance is down, the schools don’t take a financial hit.

Advocates for ADM argue that poorer school districts suffer under ADA funding schemes because attendance rate is often lower. Also, administrative record-keeping and counting would be reduced under an ADM system.

Perhaps this crisis will bring re-evaluation of ADA funding. Re-thinking school funding on an ADA basis is worth considering because of the continued drop in student enrollment in California schools.

That is a discussion for another time. For now, state and federal governments are responding as they must during this unprecedented crisis.

Joel Fox is editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.


  1. It was good to see Mr. Fox’s narrative about the ADA vs. ADM methodologies. Both are flawed. During my days at the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), we had a full time Registrar at each school whose sole job was to keep the ADA numbers up and rigorously cover each student absence. We laughingly referred to it as “butts in seats.”

    Just because a warm body is present or on the official roster of students doesn’t mean taxpayers should pay. I say the school districts shouldn’t be paid unless they are operating, the same as the government mandates to shut once-viable businesses who aren’t receiving government funding, or reparations, as another article has suggested. Let the teachers’ unions and administrators suffer along with the rest of the unemployed populace during this period of martial law. At least employees receive unemployment payments, while business owners receive nothing.

  2. Stan Sexton says

    The problem won’t be as bad for school funding as CALPERS and CALSTRS pension funding. Brown warned Newsom about the next recession. Rising pension contributions and a lower tax income environment will hopefully force the state to trim pensions. There are too many 100k plus pensions and way too many 300k pensions. There is now a CALPERS pensioner that gets 35k a month (418k+ a year). This is obscene and Genocide on the private sector taxpayer. With so many soon unemployed, we could see a class war.

  3. The Captive says

    Truth is you just can’t trust those lib-LEFT OFFICIALS in the corrupt CA schools —This breakdown in trust has gone on for so long and there is NO ACCOUNTABILITY! This is the simple truth and that’s it. Don’t give them the money because it will go to massive waste !

  4. get ready for another school bond pension diversion

  5. Just think what our Prop 98 per pupil spending would be, if 3/4 of our K-12 students were not from other countries that we are mandated to educate at our expense. What would it look like if California taxes were just spent on California legal K-12 students. Might bring back the glory days for Calif K-12.

  6. Teacher union dominated K-12 teaches students to hate capitalism, private property and corporations. Yet their own CalSTRS pensions depend on all three. Why haven’t the teachers unions been called on their own highly counter-productive teaching philosophy?

    You would think their own self-interests would prevail over their “progressive” political talking points handed down from the teachers unions. California teachers unions have done no favors, except for the teacher union bosses who make sure no teacher opts-out of their $1000 a year union dues payments. Greed and selfishness: thy name if California Teachers Association.

    Proves something is gravely wrong with our entire public education system – teachers too dumb to understand what is not working even for themselves? Yet we are letting them teach generations of new students this same wholly unproductive political agenda. Crazy.

  7. Gotta Gedada Displace says

    …”Governor Gavin Newsom said it is probable that schools will remain closed throughout the remainder of the school year.-…”

    WHY? Stupidity loves company !!!!

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