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DECLINING BIRTH RATE IN SANTA CLARA COUNTY, 2006 TO 2016 “Our commitment to project-based learning remains our central focus, and we are pursuing a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) initiative that provides teachers with strategies and tools to meet the needs of all students.” Susan Pfefferlen, Principal, Charter School of Morgan Hill SOURCE: PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA accountability. Each school district’s goals and programs must be defined within the state-mandated Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Beyond the LCAP, data on the progress of districts and their schools is made available in the California School Dashboard. LCAP and LCFF information and access to the Dashboard can be found on the websites of both school districts. State funding is based in part on Average Daily Attendance. School districts are paying close attention to absenteeism (and truancy) not only to ensure positive student outcomes but also to protect the funding that supports those outcomes. According to MHUSD Board President Mary Patterson, “When students miss school their learning falls behind. It may be due to illness, lack of transportation, or some other obstacle. It’s important to engage with students and their families to create awareness, support and accountability around this. Strengthening student and parent engagement with the school community is one of the three top goals for our district and creative steps are being taken to reach this goal.” New Governor, New Budget When Governor Gavin Newsom released his budget proposal in January, it included $80.7 billion in funding for K-12 and community colleges. He also included several one- time allocations: $750 million to broaden access to full- day kindergarten, $3 billion to fund the CalSTRS pension of schools (the employers), and $576 million for special education programs in school districts of high need. His budget would also fund two years of tuition-free community college for first-time, full-time students. Meanwhile, state legislators introduced AB 39, which calls for new K-12 dollars to be added to the LCFF base funding formula—possibly enough to raise California’s average per- student spending and move California into the top 10 states in the nation. At the time of this writing, AB 39 was in Ed Finance Committee review. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN The LCFF is just one facet of California’s education economics. Other factors pose challenges for our public schools. Declining Birthrate According to Flores, there’s another challenge to getting necessary state funding. The birth rate is declining in Santa Clara County (and nationwide), contributing to a trend of declining enrollment. GUSD has 950 senior students, and less than 700 kindergarteners. Morgan Hill Unified has 617 seniors and 537 kindergarteners. “We are projecting zero growth, and a possible decline of as many as two hundred students,” Flores said, noting that declining enrollment over the last three years has cost the Gilroy school district $3.7 million. “We’re projecting enrollment conservatively for now,” Betando said. “We will also staff conservatively, using some temporary teachers, and hiring based on enrollment.” High Cost of Housing In Santa Clara County, new housing is too expensive for young families, dual income or not. The housing crisis has triggered higher rents too. Some couples are waiting longer to have kids or leaving California for states with more affordable housing options. According to Flores, “In Gilroy developments like Glen Loma, and new affordable housing units like Alexander Station, we’re just not seeing the number of children we would have expected.” Betando agreed, “At this point we’re not seeing an impact of Morgan Hill’s affordable housing development on rising enrollment. It’s not so predictable these days. We’re reaching out to parents much earlier now, encouraging them to enroll their kindergarteners for the next school year, and then visit the campuses and meet the teachers.” The high cost of housing and preschool also impacts teachers. Both school districts have offered pay increases in april/may 2019 gmhtoday.com 35