Sunday, December 13, 2009

Numbers Game?

Sac City school district monthly school enrollment figures reveal more important questions about the state of Sac things at St. Hope/Sacramento Charter High School.  Either Sac Charter has lost a troubling number of in-district students during the third month of the school year or its enrollment figures have serious discrepancies with important financial implications for both the school and the school district.

All school enrollment--whether traditional public or charters--are provided to the school board and the public every month or so.  These figures include enrollment at the end of each month, average attendance percentages and a break out of enrollment by grade level.

Charter school enrollment also includes categories for in-district and out-of-district students.  This is important because charter schools are generally free to recruit students from outside the district, even if they are using school district owned facilities.  Charters using district facilities are required to operate under board-approved facility use agreements, which are governed by state law and which seek to ensure that the facilities funded with district tax-payer dollars are adequately serving in-district children.  These use agreements include provisions that allow the district to seek penalties if the charter school is not actually serving the number of in-district students projected by the charter organizations when the facility use agreements were formulated.

If the charter over-projects its actual in-district enrollment by 10% or more, then the district is entitled to over-allocation fees from the charter school operator of approximately 1425 per unit of ADA for each unit of projected ADA over the 10% threshold. * (ADA stands for Average Daily Attendance and it measures the average number of students who are enrolled and actually attending classes at the school.)

Sacramento Charter High School's enrollment figures for the first month of the school year* show the following:

Enrollment of In-District Students:                 867
Enrollment of Out-of-District Students:          105

Total Enrollment:                                              972

(For comparison, near-by comprehensive high schools, C.K. McClatchy and Hiram Johnson show first month enrollment figures of 2208 and 1966, respectively.)

The in-district enrollment figure of 867 conforms closely to the St. Hope projection of 880 in-district students that it included in its request for a facility use agreement for the Sac High School campus during the 2009-2010 school year.  

However, something funny turns up in the Sac Charter enrollment figures for the third month * of the school year (ending November 27, 2009).

Enrollment of In-District Students:                699
Enrollment of Out-of-District Students:         272

Total Enrollment:                                             971

While total enrollment increased by one student, the change when it comes to in-district versus out-of-district students is eye-catching.  Apparently, Sac Charter is down 168 in-district students since the school year began and up 169 out-of-district kids.   This discrepancy of 168 fewer enrolled in-district students is well over the 10% threshold that triggers a penalty.

If it is indeed true that 168 in-district students left Sac Charter then it is essential that the school board investigate why the school lost 20 percent of its in-district students during the third month of school, including where these students went.

Either these enrollment figures are true, which raises the above troubling question, or the numbers are false, which leads to other serious questions about St. Hope's reporting of its enrollment.

The onus is on the school board to get to the bottom of this.  Quickly.

* The first link is a PDF of the Executive Summary to the SCUSD Board attached to the SCUSD/St. Hope Facilities Use Agreement dated November 5, 2009.    Please see page  5 of the PDF.

Enrollment links are to district generated PDFs.   For the first month's enrollment, please refer to page 5 of the PDF.  For the third month's enrollment, please refer to page 13 of the PDF.

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