Friday, April 28, 2006
Recently there has been a great deal of information circulated within our District about "declining enrollment."
This "declining enrollment" is being used to justify budget cuts. Numbers are being circulated purporting to demonstrate large losses of income to NHUSD as a result of this phenomenon.
[Editor's Note: The school district's argument regarding declining enrollment can be found in the New Haven News. In addition, the Argus printed Superintendent Pat Jaurequi's statement on the matter in today's edition.]
The District does not receive money from the state based on enrollment. The income to NHUSD is based on attendance, as measured in the Spring, known as "P-2 ADA" and the most relevant number with regard to attendance and revenue from the state is call the "Revenue Limit ADA."
One can analyze attendance numbers in our District from any starting point. If one goes back 15 years we appear to be growing in attendance. If one goes back 10 years, we appear to be shrinking. Any analysis of attendance in NHUSD should take into consideration the District's conscious policy of canceling inter-district transfer agreements during the 98-99 and 99-00 school years. The stated intent at the time was to reduce the number of students by 1100. Since then the District spokespeople have referred to a number of 600 as the actual number of students removed from NHUSD as a result of this policy. Whether the number is 1100 or 600 the largest single factor in declining attendance was created by District action.
Since the District stopped canceling Inter District Transfer Agreements the relevant numbers are reproduced below. The actual decline in attendance over the last 4 years has been a net decline of 4 students. The revenue limit decline has been 77 students or about 19 students a year.
Revenue limit ADA P-2 ADA
2001-02 12968 12894
2002-03 13023 13023
2003-04 13023 12838
2004-05 12891 12890
This year has seen a significant decline in enrollment. State law allows the district to use the prior year's attendance in this instance, so if there is a single aberrant year, as there was in 02-03, there is a one year lag before it has an impact on District finances. In the mean time the District gets to use income based on more students that are attending classes and this decline is actually a net benefit for the first year.
Any prediction of future attendance in NHUSD should consider at least the following factors:
1. The District is now accepting Inter District Students again.
2. The impact of the policy of requiring students to pay for busing, and proposed cuts in the budget for busing in the future.
3. The new construction of housing within District boundaries.
4. The birth rates as recorded in our area as a way of predicting future enrollment. The District has this information.
5. The impact of CCHS and the possibility of implementing all day Kinder.
6. The cost of housing which may be stabilizing or even declining in the near term.
Do the attendance numbers justify significant budget cuts? The District increased its ending balance from 5 million at the end of 2003-2004 to 7 million dollars at the end of 2004-2005.
Do the attendance numbers justify reductions in personnel? Why have our Superintendent and School Board added extra administrators to the District Office if we have fewer students in our schools and need to reduce expenditures? For a classroom teacher the most galling aspect of this is that the District actually reduced the ratio of teachers to students at the beginning of the 03-04 school year and has never restored them. More administrators per student, fewer teachers per student. WHY?
Future attendance be in NHUSD is an issue of great concern. The recent past hardly appears to demonstrate an alarming trend. As one who sat through a similar set of numbers purporting to demonstrate that our District was headed to 16,000 in the near future (back in 19998) one can understand my skepticism, particularly in light of the fact that the District is making a financial argument without using the numbers that relate directly to finance.
Don Heinsohn is the immediate past president of the New Haven Teachers Association