Some 414 fewer students enrolled in Lodi Unified School District schools last academic year than the year before, resulting in a funding loss of about $2 million, according to a recent state report.
District administrators point to this repeated pattern of decreased enrollment as the reason for an increased number of layoffs in recent years, since districts receive specific funding based on the number of students enrolled. Actual attendance figures show an even more drastic decrease.
In 2008-09, the average annual attendance districtwide was 29,634 students, compared to 29,003 last school year, according to data provided by Tim Hern, chief business officer.
Attendance data is important to district officials for budget projections. But Hern said Lodi Unified is actually funded under a different formula.
Per education code, the state uses last school year's so-called P-2 figures from April, which coincide with the date that attendance is reported to the state, although the figures are relatively the same.
The district will receive money based on the average daily attendance of 27,289, which is a loss of 420 ADA from the 2009-10 school year. That amounts to $2 million to $2.2 million, according to Hern.
"Since ADA is what earns revenue for a school district, then a proportional reduction in staff occurs if ADA decreases," he said.
In the past three years, Lodi has lost about 1,000 students based on its first month of school enrollment. Budgetwise, that is equivalent to about 33 teachers based on current staffing ratios, Hern said.
"Our assumption is that we will continue to lose about 360 students per year and have built our projected budgets on that. The assumption is we would have to reduce staff by approximately 12 full-time equivalent (positions)," Hern said.
Enrollment and actual attendance is not the same thing.
Lodi Unified's attendance rate is 95.81 percent of enrollment, Hern said, adding that enrollment tends to peak in October for Central Valley school districts, decline until December and stay steady through May.
ADA numbers are collected for each district and submitted to the state, which cuts the district a check for each student enrolled. Also known as per-pupil funding, if the number of students in class dips, so does the funding.
Each day, Lodi Unified receives about $32 per student, so by year's end the district averages about $5,700 per student. That money goes into the general fund and pays for basically anything needed to educate students, from teachers to utilities.
But, the money has repeatedly been deferred by the state in recent years.
"With the uncertainty of the state budget, the district must react immediately to the decline in enrollment once the district attendance is determined ... and must be adjusted for the next fiscal year," Hern said of planning for the future.
North Stockton hardest hit
The district's drop — which began in 2008-09 — comes after seven years of steady growth.
Although the new state data shows most schools lost a minimal number of students since last school year, some, such as Elkhorn and Parklane Elementary, saw big jumps in their enrollment.
The gain at Parklane represents a fluctuation either way that can happen any year, since there is a great deal of mobility in that attendance area, according to Assistant Superintendent Catherine Pennington.
The area was hit with an unusually high number of home foreclosures and families moving to other neighborhoods, but many have since returned.
Parklane numbers fluctuate because there are a number of apartments in the attendance area which tend to house families that move in and out, Pennington said.
Elkhorn's gain was primarily in the middle school, where class sizes went up due to districtwide budget cuts, according to Pennington.
The entire school saw 44 more students than in 2009-10. The student body averages about 300 students.
Those with the largest decline included Independence, which lost 72 students; Podesta Ranch Elementary's decrease of 94; and Creekside, with 60 fewer students. Most credit that decline to ongoing foreclosures in North Stockton that are forcing families to move.
Most of the district's schools with significant enrollment drops are in North Stockton, although Larson Elementary in Lodi also saw a sizeable decrease.
Galt, too, sees drop
In the past, the public has called for school closures or consolidations when enrollment drops at campuses in close proximity to one another, but the action has not come before trustees. Instead, campuses have been closed due to personnel expenses or expensive utility upgrades.
Consolidation of schools is sometimes needed for drops in enrollment, Hern said. But that is a board decision, and a process that is not immediate.
"At this time, Lodi is not considering any future closures because of enrollment," Hern said.
In Galt, attendance rates have also steadily declined over the past three years, according to state figures.
The Galt Joint Union High School District has lost 135 students since 2008-09, while the Galt Joint Union Elementary District has seen a drop of 218.
That district has closed one campus and moved students among the remaining sites due partly to shifting attendance in recent years.
Statewide, last year there was an enrollment increase of 26,688, although that may be the result of a more complete data collection this year, according to state officials who released the enrollment report in late May.
There are now 6.2 million public K-12 school students in California. The largest subgroup are Hispanic or Latino; at 51.4 percent, that constitutes a 1.05 percent increase from the previous year.
Statewide school enrollment dropped for the first time in 24 years in 2005-06.
According to state Department of Education records, at the time there were 6.3 million pupils enrolled — down 10,000 from the previous year — and officials at the time said there weren't sure whether the trend would continue.
Projections had called for continued student growth through at least 2010, but factors including local job losses, changes in migration patterns and lower fertility rates may have affected that, the CDE reported.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.