During the April 26th school board meeting, board members discussed the Berkeley Unified School District school budget for next year and the years following. In the meeting, they talked about how student enrollment in the BUSD school system is dropping, and as a result, our Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds from the state are decreasing. The school district gets funded based on how many students are enrolled in our district, and now that we have fewer students, our schools are losing money.
According to a presentation during the school board meeting, enrollment trends have fallen since the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2017-18 school year, we had an ADA of 9,809 students, and now in the 2022-2023 school year, our ADA lowered to 9,195 students. It’s common for the ADA to fluctuate by an average of 100 students each year, but in the 2020-2021 school year, when we only had online school, the ADA dropped by 435 students. Then, in 2021-2022 the ADA dropped by another 230, and finally, this year, it dropped by an additional 106 students.
The main reason for low enrollment in BUSD is a result of COVID-19. This wasn’t just an issue within BUSD, as it affected many districts around the Bay Area as well.
“When COVID hit, a lot of kids who were able to transitioned into private schools or homeschooling, and that caused enrollment to go down,” said Ian Segall, the BHS school board representative. He also added that, fortunately for BUSD, “We are seeing an increase in enrollment, and we are also accepting more district transfers to get enrollment up, but we are still not at pre-COVID rates.”
BUSD is projected to lose three million dollars in the budget for the next school year based on our enrollment numbers. However, things aren’t all bad. The finance department also reports that BUSD will save 1.2 million dollars on the transportation plan and get another $800,000 from the Music and Instructional Materials Block Grant. Using this data, the net loss in the BUSD budget is approximated to be about one million dollars. It is not finalized, “But there are going to be possibly some hits to VAPA, which is visual arts and performance, like the visual arts department…. and also increases in budget for special education,” Segall said.
Students and staff at BHS also have opinions on where the budget should be spent.
Emily Gilden, a ninth grade math teacher, said, “There’s people in the district office that make lots and lots of money, double triple what a teacher makes, and I think we should figure out what jobs they’re doing, and if they can be consolidated. Then we can tighten up the district office and the district people’s budget to free up money for programs that pay teachers to work on supports that they believe are best for students.”
Gilden also spoke about how math teachers currently want more support for students struggling with math and how a little more money would go a long way.
Jack Mackey-Williams, BHS sophomore, also has an opinion on the budget. “I think more of the school budget should go to sports because they are really fun to watch and bring the school together.”
In addition, Mackey-Williams thinks that the school should more evenly distribute the sports money and not spend the vast majority on sports like football or soccer. Soon more information on the district’s budget will be presented during an upcoming school board meeting. Nothing is finalized yet, but in the near future, some tough decisions will be made.