October 21, 2021

California schools are running out of money

By Cal Matters October 19, 2021

School districts have two choices: Bite the bullet and make budget cuts now, or delay them and face even more painful decisions.

Michael Fine, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, a school finance agency, delivered a warning to district leaders last week about deficits in CA’s finances. But warnings have been popping up everywhere. The state is hiring a fiscal consultant to help San Francisco Unified — which is currently facing a $116 million shortfall — figure out how to slash 13% of its $1 billion annual budget. Hayward Unified is considering closing an elementary school — one that primarily serves immigrant families — to plug budget gaps. West Contra Costa Unified, confronting a possible $30 million deficit, says it may have to lay off teachers.

Yet the state is pouring a record amount of money into education. So what gives?

Some of the primary culprits, experts say, are declining attendance and enrollment — which partially determine school funding. During the first year of the pandemic, California’s public schools lost more than 160,000 students — the largest enrollment drop in two decades. Although this year’s statewide numbers haven’t yet been released, the numbers from individual districts are grim. Los Angeles Unified’s enrollment has fallen by more than 27,000 students since last year, while San Francisco Unified lost 3,500 students over the past two years.

The state Department of Finance, meanwhile, predicts that California’s pre-pandemic enrollment will decrease by 703,000 students by 2031.

Click here for the full article…