The dollars available for running schools are slowly dwindling, and if revenues decrease, school districts will be forced to reduce spending. This is always horrible because it may mean losing programs that are important to our community. I am thrilled that there is an easy solution! We need our young scholars to attend school every day. Their attendance funds school buses, band teachers, building maintenance… and just about everything else that happens in our District.
We as parents in the Ukiah Unified School District are leaving about 3.3 million dollars on the table each year. Let me explain, each day teachers and administrators take attendance, and those figures are used by the State of California to determine Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for our District. The State then uses our ADA figures to plug into their formula and funds UUSD for each student who attends class each day. There is a little math that I’m skipping over here, but the critical point to remember is that those of us responsible for getting our future mechanics, doctors, and farmers out the door need to do a better job.
3.3 million dollars is a lot of money. We could hire approximately thirty-six new teachers to reduce class size. The heating and air conditioning system at Grace Hudson Elementary School is going to cost 2.9 million dollars. Even after paying for the new system, we could still give our staff a much-deserved raise with the remaining funds! We could afford to upgrade our soccer/football field with artificial turf. We need to get our children to school! Getting our children to school every day ends up being a complete win-win. Our children earn valuable learning time, and we increase the funding that directly benefits their education.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to improve attendance if we all pitch in. One easy target is our younger students and parents. Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten children in our District miss a lot of school compared to California averages. Parents sometimes don’t realize the important learning that occurs at these younger ages. That includes me. I remember some wonderful trips our family took because “it’s just kindergarten.” What we didn’t appreciate was the impact those trips had on our daughter's learning.
Attendance in the early years is essential. Kindergarteners and first graders who miss just 2-3 days of school each month often struggle. Over time, missing school puts them at a disadvantage socially and academically. It’s harder to learn to read and understand math, and it’ll be much harder to graduate from high school. If a child misses just ten days of school, they will miss out on about 60 individual lessons. If a child has 19 absences, they will miss 120 lessons. Work can be made up, but it’s just not the same. When students are absent, they miss out on group interaction, individual attention from teachers, and the ability to ask questions.
This year Yokayo Elementary has made a concerted effort to educate new parents about attendance and its positive impact on their students. Parents listened! Attendance at Yokayo is up! This is proof that if we all work together; we can make a difference.
Improvements in attendance will have a significant impact on our community. Every percentage point of improvement means roughly an extra $500,000 in funding for our children’s education, so here’s our chance to all pitch in and help. I am asking everyone to focus on always getting your kids to school and consider some ways we can all help to improve attendance at UUSD. Do out of town shopping on the weekends, plan vacations only on school breaks, schedule medical and dental appointments after school, talk to your family about the importance of attendance and education, and communicate to your children that school is what prepares them for a career and their future.