Local educational agencies (LEAs) across the state are preparing for the prospect of closing schools or reduced student attendance due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Since average daily attendance (ADA) generates the primary source of funding for LEAs, the loss of ADA can have a significant negative impact on the LEA budget.
School districts in declining enrollment have a one-year reprieve from an ADA loss by using the greater of the current-year or prior-year ADA. Charter schools do not have that same flexibility and will be impacted in the current school year. The one year of flexibility for school districts may help to alleviate the ADA loss for the current year, but the 2020–21 school year may be severely impacted. LEAs experiencing ADA growth, rather than decline, may also be negatively impacted in the current year.
The state provides a waiver process so that LEAs are not penalized for the ADA losses due to an epidemic. When a local school is closed or when there is a material decrease in ADA due to any emergency, which includes an epidemic, the LEA should prepare a Form J-13A, Request for Allowance of Attendance Because of Emergency Conditions (reference Education Code Sections 41422 and 46390 et seq., and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 428). School districts and charter schools should file the form with the county office of education (COE), and COEs with ADA losses should file the form with the California Department of Education. The form and its instructions can be found here.
If the loss in ADA is “material,” or there are instructional minutes lost due to school closures, the loss of apportionment may be recovered through this emergency day waiver process. A letter from the local department of health stating that an epidemic has occurred is required with your waiver request.
Approval of the waiver allows the LEA to receive credit for the lost ADA for the day(s) of the closures, as well as for the missed instructional time, and/or for a material decrease in student attendance resulting from the epidemic. Form J-13A is a multipage form, and not all pages are necessarily required—the instructions provide guidance on which pages need to be completed for your LEA’s situation. Note that Form J-13A does not need to be submitted immediately—you can wait until the current situation is over and the overall impact can be assessed.
Impact on Employees
The decision to close a school is not negotiable. However, changes to employee working conditions are subject to bargaining. While it is the employer’s responsibility to engage in the bargaining process to address changes, it is a best practice to partner with your labor unions to address school closures to ensure a collaborative and coordinated response to these challenges as they arise. Working conditions that may be impacted by a school closure are listed below:
- Work day and work year
- Employee leave
- Employee compensation and benefits, including retirement
LEAs should work closely with their legal counsel in determining the status of employees impacted by a closure given the potential fiscal, compliance, and retirement credit implications.