By Dr. Charles Powell
School district and campus budgets are battling against the strongest headwinds in more than two generations. With AVID, we normally turn to the stories of the students. Those stories, more than anything else, inspire continued financial commitment to the program. But this year is different. Regardless of our students’ remarkable accomplishments, or the tremendous work of the educators who serve them, this year we have to provide an even stronger justification for the financial investment.
This is where we need to look again to AVID’s impact on attendance. The increased attendance of AVID students is both believable and, as a result, quickly forgotten. But attendance is the engine that drives school funding in almost every state and district.
AVID kids already have good attendance when they enter AVID, so what’s my point? Just that – AVID kids do have good attendance, somewhere from the high 80s to the low 90s. Yet their attendance collectively increases by three to five percentage points over what their attendance was prior to AVID. We know this from the research of Dr. Karen Watt at the University of Texas Pan-American (Watt et al, 2004).
To see the incredible impact of that increase on an individual school’s funding let’s do a hypothetical calculation: Say you have 120 students in your AVID program at your school. Their attendance increases by 4 percentage points as a result of their participation in AVID. There are roughly 180 days in the school year. So
120 students x 180 days x 4% = 864 additional student days of attendance
Those 864 days are the same as if five additional students enrolled at the school.
Think about that for a moment. A typical AVID program increases the funding for the school by the same amount as if five additional students enrolled. That’s a direct financial benefit of AVID.
Let me start with the Texas funding formula to get to actual dollar amounts, since that’s where I live. For each additional student, the state of Texas provides at least $5,000 in state funding, even before considering weighted state funding. So our five ‘additional students’ generate $25,000 for the school. (And this calculation doesn’t begin to account for how that increased attendance also increases the federal funding that the school receives.)
To look at how this attendance bump impacts an AVID program in another state, let’s look to California. For California schools, basic state aid amounts to at least $3,000 per student. And that amount doesn’t begin to account for other state aid or local property taxes. But to keep this as simple as possible (and there is literally a 45-page research paper from Stanford published on this subject), let’s just look at the impact of that $3,000 per student. Using the same calculation in the Texas example, just the basic state aid would add $15,000 to an AVID program per year. If that program were smaller, only 60 students say, basic state aid would still provide an additional $7,500 to the school based on nothing more than the increased attendance of the AVID students alone.
As a third example, let’s look to Colorado. In the Rocky Mountain state, funding varies by school district. But even taking the lowest amount in the state, $6,400 (July, 2009, report from the Colorado Department of Education – Colorado School Finance and Categorical Program Funding), we see an impact of an additional $30,000 for a program serving 120 AVID students.
As a final example for now, let’s look to an East Coast state. Take North Carolina, for instance. In the Tar Heel state, as in other states in this post, the funding amount is complicated. Rather than allotting an overall funding level per district, the North Carolina state basic funding provides for one teaching position per a set number of students. This number also varies by grade level. So a middle school teacher (grades 7 and 8 at least) is guaranteed for every 21 students, and a high school teacher is guaranteed for roughly every 26 students (24.5 in grade 9; 26.64 in grades 10-12).
Using these student totals per teacher, an AVID program in North Carolina serving 120 students would generate ¼ of the funding for the teacher’s salary for a middle school and 1/5 of the funding for the teacher’s salary for a high school. Now don’t be misled by those fractions. What I’m saying here is that based on nothing more than the increased attendance of AVID students, the AVID program generates the funding for a sizeable portion of an AVID teacher’s salary. That holds even though the AVID teacher likely teaches courses in addition to AVID.
So even though each of these states has widely different specific state funding formulas for schools, because they all have student attendance as a primary driver of funding, AVID helps to fund itself. Put more briefly, AVID isn’t just taking money from a school’s or a district’s dwindling budget, AVID is generating money for the school and for the district. Even in these historically difficult budget times, you can still take that fact to the bank.
Dr. Charles Powell supported AVID schools in nine states from 1997 through 2006. After leaving AVID, he continued to support schools in mathematics and science in several states with Agile Mind. He is a former middle school and high school mathematics teacher in Indiana, Ohio, and North Carolina. When he moved to Texas, he learned the workings of state and federal education policy while on the staff of the Texas Education Agency and while working for Region 13 Education Service Center in Austin. He holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Indiana University in Bloomington and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in mathematics education. He has two children, both in middle school this year, and lives with them and his wife in Austin, Texas.