By John Crowder
At the March 25, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees heard from Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business & Operations, and his staff as they presented the 2014-2015 Second Interim Budget Report. Following and during the presentation, board members raised questions about declining enrollment and whether or not expenditures were in line with the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) mandates.
One of the first items addressed in the report was the continuing trend of declining student enrollment within AUSD. According to one of the slides used in the budget presentation, entitled “Enrollment and ADA (Average Daily Attendance),” student enrollment in the district is expected to continue to decline over the next two years from 17,792 in 2014-2015 to 17,506 in 2016-2017, a loss of another 286 students over the next two years.
The two newest board members, Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, both raised questions related to the enrollment numbers and average daily attendance, which are major factors in determining District revenue. Vinson, after stating that “A couple of things are not clear to me when I look at the budget,” expressed concern that, “I don’t see a dollar amount attached to that. The numbers seem off, based on ADA.”
As part of his response to Vinson, Forrester said that vacant homes in Antioch, and changing demographics related to the recession were factors driving down enrollment.
Ruehlig questioned Forrester on this analysis, saying, “I’m not seeing the vacant homes. How do you calculate this?”
Forrester responded, “We look at it internally.” He then talked again about losing students in the District due to foreclosures.
Ruehlig continued questioning that assumption, asking, “Is some [of the loss of students due to them moving to] private school, homeschool, to Brentwood?”
Forrester agreed with Ruehlig that, “Some is.”
A quick look at statistics regarding population numbers by age for the city of Antioch seems to lend some credence to Ruehlig’s concerns. According to demographic information contained on the city of Antioch website, declining enrollment was occurring as early as a decade ago, even while the school age population continued to grow. According to information found on the website, while the number of school age children in the city increased from 21,783 in 2000 to 24,088 in 2007, the number attending AUSD decreased from a peak of 21,628 in 2003-2004 to 19,422 in 2008. As noted by Forrester, the number of students attending AUSD continues to decline, and is expected to drop to about 17,500 within the next two years.
Local Control Accountability Plan
Following that discussion, board member Barbara Cowan raised concerns about the budgeting process in light of the LCAP and LCFF. “How are you going to balance LCAP?” she asked. (An ongoing concern with residents and local advocacy groups has been the distribution of Supplemental and Concentration funds. According to a report given out at the meeting, “…supplementary amounts are added for the economically disadvantaged, English learners, and foster students; and additional concentration amounts are added for these student populations when their numbers exceed 55% of total enrollment.” Local education advocates have been particularly concerned that this money is not being spent on new programs or improvements in programs for these targeted groups.)
Forrester said that $5.9 million of new revenue for 2015-2016 was from Supplemental and Concentration funds.
Cowan then asked for an estimate of how much of this money would be spent on new programs.
Forrester said he was unable to provide this information until a new budget was in place.
Cowan reiterated that she wanted to see what money was to be spent, “for new [programs], not the same old, same old.” “When will you have the numbers?” she asked.
Forrester replied that the numbers would be available in May.
Cowan then addressed Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, asking whether or not AUSD staff was looking at specific needs when determining LCAP spending.
Anello responded, “Yes, we’ve been having stakeholder meetings and prioritizing.”
Following this exchange, Vinson said that she had been looking at the State website, and wanted to make sure that their numbers matched the numbers she was being given by the District. Saying she agreed with Cowan, she emphasized spending, “on programs where specifically designated.”
After further exchanges between the board members and staff, Forrester said that the June budget would reflect the most currently available information.
A separate article about the settlement agreement between the district and the East County Branch of the NAACP, approved at the meeting, will be posted, soon.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on April 15. Meetings are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.