Schools ask parents to donate money when unexcused absences occur

Already struggling to make ends meet, some Bay Area school districts are asking parents to give money to make up for lost state revenues when they take their child out of school for such absences as family vacations.

The San Mateo-Foster City School District has had an Elective Absence Fund for years, district spokeswoman Joan Rosas said. The fund is optional for parents, but many in the district do donate.

“Our community is very supportive,” Rosas said. “We do need attendance to generate our funding. So when parents take a trip, taking an elective absence, we request a donation.”

Rosas said the district accepts any amount a family can offer, but noted the district receives roughly $25 per day, per student from the state.

For the 2008-09 school year, an estimated $20,217 was received from San Mateo-Foster City parents. The district, which has 35 elementary and middle schools, has collected $2,433 so far this school year.

The donations from the parents that go into the Elective Absence Fund do not go to the individual schools, but into the district’s general fund, Rosas said.

Foster City parent Gary Quin, 37, said he has never contributed to the Elective Absence Fund, but would consider donating money to his daughter’s school — Brewer Island — if she had an unexcused absence.

“We do purchase books for fundraisers and donate books to classrooms,” he said. “I think I would consider it.”

San Mateo-Foster City is not the only district asking parents for monitory help. The Scotts Valley Unified School District, near Santa Cruz, began asking parents for donations in 2007. In Santa Rosa, the Mark West Union School District, also requests a donation if parents elect to take their students out of school for vacation during scheduled school time.=

The San Mateo-Foster City School District has been impacted by $18 million in revenue cuts over the last three years. In February, the district will ask voters to renew a parcel tax that is set to expire which contributes nearly $3 million a year.

Many districts, including San Mateo-Foster City are revenue limited — which means local property taxes are not enough to support district operations, so the district is subsidized by state funding.

Monthly enrollment numbers fund “revenue limit” districts; therefore a child missing days could hurt a district’s funding, said Peter Burchyns, spokesman for the San Mateo County Office of Education.

An unexcused absence is when a child is not in school for reasons other than those approved, which include illness, court appearances and funeral services for a family member.
 
Playing hooky

Parents of students in the San Mateo-Foster City School District are asked to contribute to an Elective Absence Fund when they keep their child out of school for vacations or other reasons not excused:

10,400 Students in district

$20,217 Total donations for 2008-09 school year

$2,433 Donations to date for 2009-10 school year

$25 Approximate amount district loses in state revenue for student absences

Source: San Mateo-Foster City School District

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