Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) is funded by a combination of local property taxes, plus aid from the state.
School districts like Palo Alto and Santa Clara are community-funded, which means that property taxes generated within their school district boundaries are the primary source of funding.
“Last year, our property taxes came to about $70 million,” said MUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Wendy Zhang. “And $23.9 million came from state. So our total funding was $94.8 million.”
To determine the amount of funding MUSD receives from the state, student attendance is calculated.
Each day, the cost per student is $53 dollars. If a child misses a day, the school district loses $53 dollars. The average funding per student is $9,500. So each student that generates perfect attendance will bring in $9,500 to the district.
At an October 2, 2019 school board meeting, Coordinator of Student Services Amy Sanidad got up to talk about attendance and some of the things they’ve learned by studying patterns in the district. They found that students in Kindergarten to 1st grade, along with 11th-12th grade, had the highest number of absences. They also found that Mondays and Fridays are two of the biggest days in which students have been absent. If students are missing 10% or more of the school year, they’re considered chronically absent. Currently, with enrollment of over 10,000 students across the district, there are 5%, or 540 students, that are chronically absent. This number includes over 100 special education students, over 100 English learners, and over 200 Latino students. Sandidad mentioned that this is data that needs to be reflected upon and addressed.
“Attendance is one of our district focuses this school year,” said Zhang. “We believe in learning. Be present, so they can learn. It’s not all about money. We have our financial obligations, but we also focus on student learning. We believe quality instruction time will help them to learn.”
In November, 2018, a school bond of $284 million was passed by voters in Milpitas. And so far, MUSD has cashed out $75 million of that bond, putting it toward a variety of summer projects, among them painting, roofing, and paving at some of the sites. Another portion of that money will also fund Phase 2 of Mabel Mattos Elementary School and the modernization of Randall Elementary, MUSD’s sole dual-enrollment school.
For a second high school campus, which will be at Ayer Educational Park on Calaveras, an architectural firm has been hired to get the planning process started.
Plans are also in the works to use the bond money to modernize the Milpitas High School campus.
In 2012, IBI Group completed a facilities assessment, and found that district-wide, facilities needs would come out to over $700 million.
“MUSD was established back in the 1950s, and so our infrastructure and buildings are old,” said Zhang. “If we wanted to remodel, several hundred million will just barely make it. Our consultants went through each site and evaluated the buildings and current uses. And our bond money can help us to fix the minimum.”
At the end of the day, the funding never seems to be enough.
“There are so many needs. There is a challenge with special needs students — our population in that category is growing year to year, and also takes additional manpower,” shared Zhang. “This is kind of a challenge that most of the school districts are facing. We’re underfunded to help our special needs students.”