SHOW LOW — The Show Low Unified School District (SLUSD) and 40 other public schools in Arizona were audited by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) in 2018 for attendance. Average Daily Membership or “ADM” were audited for Fiscal Years 2015, 2016 and 2017. Audits for 2018 are still in process.
The combined-year audit “determined that the district incorrectly reported some enrollment data, which resulted in its Average Daily Membership being overstated by 55.58,” according to the December 19, 2018, written report. In addition, the report indicates that the District’s Arizona Online Instruction (AOI) program was overstated by .40 which resulted in a total overstatement of enrollment by 55.98.
The district is provided Basic State Aid (education funding) based on student enrollment — called Average Daily Membership — numbers reported to the Arizona Department of Education.
Essentially, this means that the state overfunded the District in the amount of $261,146.35.
This amount was repaid to the state during the 2019-2020 school year budget cycle, as required by law.
“The repayment was almost equivalent to the amount we saw restored by the State from cuts to our budget in District Additional Assistance (Capital Funding),” says District Superintendent Shad Housley.
“The repayment did not impact teachers or staff and all of the employee raises, plus more, were offered,” he adds. “The District is sound, fiscally.”
Locally, Show Low is not the only school district or educational entity that has faced this issue.
According to the Arizona Department of Education, Holbrook Unified School District was overfunded by $63,811 for FY 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) was overfunded by $15,930 for the same fiscal years.
Northeast Arizona Technological Institute of Vocational Education (NATIVE), primarily located north of Interstate 40, was overfunded by $1,330,639 for FY 2015, 2016 and 2017.
What is ADM?
Public schools rely on state funding which is based on their Average Daily Membership (ADM). In layman’s terms, ADM means attendance, which equals state funding, but the calculation for ADM is complex.
Taking attendance and reporting that information back to the Arizona Department of Education would seem simple, but over the years, it has become more complicated for schools. Funding is incremental and varies by a long list of factors.
“When you look at average daily membership, it’s a little more complex than it appears. When the state does an ADM audit, they examine the exact number of minutes that students are in class,” explains Housley. “They assume that all four classes last sixty minutes but that’s not always the case.”
“They pull up our class schedules and passing periods which is the time between classes. There used to be six class periods at 55 minutes each; now we have seven class periods at 50 minutes each with 10-minute passing periods (passing periods count as instructional time.)”
Housley provided an examples of how enrollment might be measured for a high school student in the 2015-2016 school year when compared to a high school student in 2018-2019 school year.
In the first example, the 2015-16 high school junior (11th grade) has six class periods that include English, Algebra, World History, Biology and Welding.
To be considered a full-time student measuring 1.0 in average daily membership, that meet 720 hours per year. This student has met the criteria with their English, Algebra, World History and Biology classes by attending class for a total of 240 minutes per day (180 day school year).
The student attends Welding class at Northeastern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) after their four classes on campus. The CTE class is reported as an additional .25 in Certified Technical Education (CTE).
In this scenario, the 1.0 at SLHS plus the .25 at NAVIT for CTE total ADM of 1.25.
In this example, the 2017-2018 high school junior (11th grade) has the same classes: English, Algebra, World History, Biology and Welding, however the student attends NAVIT in the morning before coming to Show Low High School.
With the four academic classes at 50 minutes each, plus 10 minute passing periods, the student is still considered a full-time student measuring 1.0 in average daily membership. The four, 50 minute classes equal 200 minutes class time per day plus the 10 minute passing periods equals 240 minutes total, which is required for full-time.
This student has only three, 10 minute passing periods between classes which can be added to equal 230 minutes class time per day. This does not meet the state’s criteria to be reported as 1.0 average daily membership.
This student’s enrollment should be reported as .75 plus .25 for NAVIT.
The key is that the district and NAVIT are funded separately. Should the district report the student as 1.0 instead of .75, then they could be overfunded and would need to repay funding to the state.
The exception is the rule
NAVIT and other Career Technical Education classes provide some of the most common examples of Average Daily Membership reporting formulas.
Some students attend Northland Pioneer College to earn college credit. They may be full time students but their time off-campus may change, incrementally, how the district reports enrollment.
There are also students enrolled in the district’s Arizona Online Instruction (AOI) program which is measured from July 1 through June 30, which is different than the regular school year ADM.
“There are times when an AOI student is registered for four online classes that equal 1.0 average daily enrollment,” explains Housley. “But, should they decide to drop a class or perhaps finish only three of the four classes, our reporting must be adjusted after we have already reported to the state.”
“It is a complex process to go back and recalculate that student’s enrollment,” assures Housley.
Special Education students, homeschooled students that attend some classes on campus are additional examples where funding is not so straightforward.
The type of class, the location of the class, the length of th class, the number and length of passing periods and even the length of lunch periods are considered in Average Daily Membership reporting formulas.
Simply put — when it comes to reporting Average Daily Membership, increments matter and small differences can add up for any school district.
See Part 2 in Tuesday’s Independent.