Education

Post-election student walkouts won't cost L.A. Unified schools (more than usual)

A Facebook post from the page of the labor union United Teachers Los Angeles shows L.A. Unified students walking out of classes to protest the victory of President-elect Donald Trump.
A Facebook post from the page of the labor union United Teachers Los Angeles shows L.A. Unified students walking out of classes to protest the victory of President-elect Donald Trump.
Facebook/UTLA

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From looking solely at the numbers of absences at Los Angeles Unified secondary schools in the days following Nov. 8, one would have no idea thousands of students had walked off their campuses to protest President-elect Donald Trump's victory.

In fact, there were more full day absences recorded in L.A. Unified secondary schools on Halloween (14,403) than on any single day in the week following the vote, according to data district officials provided to KPCC.

The biggest spike of absences in the week after the election came on Nov. 14 — a day when thousands of students marched to L.A. City Hall. But it was also the Monday after a three-day holiday weekend, timing that could also have affected attendance.

To understand these numbers, it's important to understand what counts as an "absence."

California funds schools based on how many students actually show up. If a student is absent — whether excused or unexcused — the district cannot count the student toward its "average daily attendance," or ADA.

But state law is silent on what qualifies as "showing up." In L.A. Unified secondary schools, a student cannot be counted as absent for purposes of calculating ADA if a teacher in one class period marks them as present, according to district policy.

On Monday, Nov. 14, for instance, students from Garfield High School in east Los Angeles said they walked off campus around 8:30 a.m. — around the time their first period classes wrapped up, judging from the bell schedule on their website.

The data the district provided did not include information on students' period-by-period attendance.

But district officials did estimate how much money L.A. Unified stood to lose from students' full-day absences.

Absences from the week before the election could potentially cost the district as much as $5.2 million in revenue, though L.A. Unified could recoup some of that funding if students attend make-up days or parents correct a teacher's incorrect absence mark.

By contrast, for the week after the election, the district could potentially lose as much as $4.7 million. For reference, the district has a $7 billion operating budget.

(Lead image from Facebook.)