Higher summer school attendance creates funding concerns

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COLUMBIA — Missouri public schools are expected to have higher summer school attendance rates this year, yet some officials worry these higher numbers could mean less funding later down the road.

"We are anticipating this year's growth will exceed what we've had in the last six or seven years," said Dr. Ronald Lankford, Deputy Commissioner for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

DESE reports Columbia's School District has seen the highest attendance rates since 2011.

Each year school districts will report their total number of hours students attended summer school to DESE to calculate the total hours of enrollment.

Under current statutes, the average daily attendance calculation is equal to number of hours in attendance, divided by the number of hours in the school district's calendar year.

Lankford said higher attendance rates can result in disproportionate education funding across the state.

"The funding per student, is you take the amount of money divided by average daily attendance, so the larger the ADA, the less that can be paid per student."

Lankford said the current funding structure can result in some districts getting less money.

"If you have a school district that doesn't have a summer school because they might be in a rural area, and they can't afford to have a summer school program for efficiency sake, they will get less money because of summer school thats provided in other districts."

Some state lawmakers think the focus should be on finding a solution with the current funding problem for education.

"We have to make those tough decisions and we have to prioritize the body what's more important, and if education turns up on the list, somebody's going to have to lose," said Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles.

Wood said he supports summer school, but wants to re-configure how it is funded.

DESE officials said another solution to the problem could be an extended calendar year.

"If all students don't go to summer school, we're not bridging the gap for all kids, maybe we need to look at a longer school year with intervals during the year, rather than focusing on some of the students rather than all of the students," Lankford said.

Lankford said he is hopeful this issue will be addressed in the next legislative session.