For us students, the process in which our school is funded may not even cross our minds. In a community where the privileged seem to be the majority, we are sometimes blind to the economic disparities people in other communities face. In fact, we are also privileged in terms of how our schools are funded.
According to Principal Ben Clausnitzer, who previously worked at the human resources department at the FUHSD district office, record-low birth rates over the past decade have led to a decrease in the number of students enrolling at MVHS. Additionally, along with a constant inflow of job seekers without children, many parents are choosing not to move out after their children graduate, leading to less and less students enrolling at MVHS. Students attending MVHS, however, still receive the same funding and privileges allocated to the larger student bodies of previous years.
This is because of our school’s unique funding system. In California, schools are usually funded using one of two methods: community or Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding. MVHS is a community-funded school, which means that the revenue generated from local property taxes is enough to meet the “revenue limit.” The revenue limit is the minimum amount of money that makes a school eligible for being community funded. In less-privileged communities, where local property taxes aren’t enough to meet the revenue limit, schools must be ADA-funded, where funding is based on the number of students in attendance.
If the number of students decreases in ADA-funded schools, they will have less money to fund courses. On the other hand, if community-funded schools have a decrease in students, the amount of funding is not directly affected. Where ADA-funded schools would have to cut down on course offerings, community-funded schools only have to cut down the quantity of classes for a course to accommodate for the fewer number of students.
This has been the case for MVHS, as for the past few years MVHS has been consistently cutting down the number of offered classes due to the steady decline in student enrollment. According to Clausnitzer, in the mid-2000s, the MVHS student body consisted of 2,600 students. Over the next decade, this figure dropped to 2,270 students by the 2018 to 2019 school year. In the next school year, we are projected to have around 2,200 students. However, even if there are fewer students taking a certain course, as long as enough demand exists in students’ top six course selections to to run one full section of a particular course, we don’t have to worry about not being able to take the class.
We live in an area where long-term effects like a decrease in enrollment don’t impact our ability to take courses that are in demand — while AP and STEM classes are still being highly requested, certain elective courses are not, which results in less classes offered as there are less students taking it.
For example, MVHS used to offertwo Writing for Publications classes but this year we only have one; we had enough students for both classes if we included those who put it as their seventh option, but putting a course in the seventh option box on our course sheets isn’t enough to save a class. Even though we are lucky enough to have enough funding for elective courses, we aren’t taking advantage of being able to explore these classes and pursue subjects that interest us.
Some of us are already painfully aware of our privilege. But even though we complain about the academic pressure at MVHS, we’ve never had to worry about fewer course selections — and we most likely never will.
Because we have access to a variety of courses, we should spend more time exploring different electives because students at less fortunate schools might not have the same opportunity. Instead of directing all of our focus on taking AP classes, as pressured by our parents and peers, we should take the time to delve into what really interests us.
Our school provides so many electives that students could be taking time to discover their true passions, yet these classes are overlooked in favor of AP classes that supposedly increase our chances of getting into a good college. Sometimes it is inevitable for us to avoid taking classes that our parents want us to take, but if we find ourselves writing in an AP class on our course forms that we would dread taking, go against the MVHS norm and taking a different elective course instead. Taking an elective based on an interest for every AP we take could actually end up being more fulfilling for us in the future.
In an academically pressuring environment, it may be looked down upon to take courses that aren’t considered “difficult”, but there is nothing more rewarding than coming to class and enjoying what you’re learning without feeling stressed. Community-funding allows the school to provide us with the classes we want, so we should be more aware of this privilege and invest in doing things we care about.