CVUSD Enrollment Crisis Continues

By Jim Clark

This spring, the California Department of Education (CDE) released its official statewide enrollment report for all school districts. The bad news is that the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) continued its eleven-year trend in declining enrollment that is driving the current budget crisis in the school district. This coming fall, enrollment is likely to plunge even more due to parent frustration with how CVUSD mishandled students’ educational experience during the COVID-19 lockdown.

CVUSD Enrollment 2008-2020

CVUSD enrollment has been steadily declining since 2008. Source: https://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/

Contrary to popular belief, most local school funding does not come from local taxes. The majority of local school funding comes from the state, and it is based on enrollment – specifically Average Daily Attendance (ADA). This is why the CVUSD enrollment crisis is so tightly linked with its budget crisis.

As can be seen by the chart displayed, the enrollment crisis started in 2008, when Betsy Connolly was first elected to the school board. Trustee Connolly aggressively fought against charter schools, leading the charge specifically against chartering MATES and Bridges. CVUSD ultimately refused to charter these two schools, so they were instead chartered by Ventura County. Consequently, CVUSD lost the ADA funding for two whole schools worth of students.

That was the beginning of Connolly’s baffling vendetta against community parents and the associated negative enrollment trend in CVUSD. There are currently more than 7,000 school-age children in the Conejo Valley that DO NOT attend our public schools. They attend private schools, home school, public schools outside our area, and charter schools not under the supervision of CVUSD.

CVUSD Trustee Sandee Everett

CVUSD Trustee Sandee Everett has focused attention on enrollment crisis.

School board member Sandee Everett has frequently sounded the alarm about the enrollment crisis. For three years, she has been pointing out that CVUSD needs to start attracting back these 7,000 students or the district will face teacher layoffs and neighborhood school closures. “There are definitely things that could be done to quickly improve enrollment,” stated Everett. “Most parents would love to take advantage of a free public school education if we provide the right fit. We must provide more flexibility and have a willingness to accommodate a wider range of educational needs. We should talk to parents and truly listen to them, so we can address why so many are choosing other options.”

The enrollment crisis may be about to get a lot worse, which would have a devastating impact on the budget, due to loss of ADA. Layoffs and school closures may now be inevitable, but this did not need to happen. Many parents in the Conejo Valley are furious about the way “distance learning” was handled by the district during the COVID-19 lockdown. Most students had dramatically less teacher contact when classes transitioned to being online or email-based. Some other nearby school districts were able to have much more live online instruction.

Walnut Elementary

As a school with low enrollment in Newbury Park, Walnut Elementary is potentially on the chopping block if enrollment crisis continues.

The fall reopening schedule does not look promising at CVUSD schools. Students will only be attending approximately 2.5 hours per day, so parents are likely to feel they are being short-changed educationally. It is difficult to imagine local students being effectively prepared for college with less than half of the class time they receive in a normal year. This will also create hardships on working parents who might now be forced to quit their job to be home with their kids.

As another after-school alternative, parents could choose to send their children to day care, which is expensive and would defeat the stated purpose (COVID-19 mitigation) of the shortened school days.

When the parents were surveyed a couple months ago about their preferences for the fall school schedule, the majority of parents and teachers simply wanted to return to the old schedule – all day, five days a week. The district appears to have ignored the parents’ and teachers’ preferences. This does not seem to be a good way to build goodwill – or to reverse the embarrassing enrollment trend.

Great schools translate to great college choices and great jobs for the graduating students – as well as great real estate values for their parents. Conejo Valley parents are not likely to quietly give up their great schools just because Superintendent Mark McLaughlin and the school board majority are unwilling to listen to parents.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.


Jim Clark is a resident of the Conejo Valley


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Sean

It just occurred to me. Charter schools were created by defunding public schools. Maybe defunding the police isn’t such a bad idea

William Hicks

Some questions have to be answered from Conejo Valley voters. For starters…….1. How did Connolly get elected if not by the voters? 2. How did the Trustee’s get elected as well?

Either you voters voted them all into office or you who don’t like the direction of CVUSD chose not to do your civic obligation and vote.

El Vangelis

Public schools here just don’t stand a chance with the unions having so much sway…it also helps that private schools have total control over their staff, teachers and students: rules get broken and there are consequences. Being an employee of the public school system, I can tell you the biggest problem is principals not having any rules and letting the students and their parents control absolutely everything! That’s what happens when the schools rely too much on the monies supplied by parents to the school…the parents put stipulations on the monies and demand favoritism and any good that the schools could do their students and teachers goes right out the window!

Caleb Standafer

Private schools in the area have plans to reopen safely, with full day instruction. People who are pointing out difficulties opening our public schools are just making exquisite excuses. The administration is paid to solve problems.

The choice that the administration and school board have to make about increasing enrollment is this: 1) Respect all parents and offer education options that are attractive for the 7,000 who are not enrolled presently, or 2) Stay ideological, which will not attract any of the 7,000 who are not enrolled. If you want to know what I mean by ideological, just review the disputes over books and sex education for the last several years. How do you know what the 7,000 and their parents want? Ask them, then make changes accordingly. This is basic marketing. Sandee may not have all the answers, but the five board members and the superintendent should all be working on this. I will vote for Sandee in November because she is representing the best interests of kids and the taxpayers.

Dr. Victoria Sonstegard

This article was absolutely slanted to make Ms. Everett the hero. The district is working overtime to try and solve some of the very real dangers involved with re-opening in the next few weeks. The reality is, the country, state, districts, and schools are not in any way prepared to re-open, and anyone who believes a few hand sanitizers and physical distancing measures will be the cure is delusional. Children haven’t proven to be super spreaders. Why? Because schools closed down IMMEDIATELY back in March. The kids will carry the virus from home to school and back, affecting other family members, teachers, and staff. One logistical example I haven’t seen discussed: if a class of 20 elementary school children need to line up to use the restroom and need a 6 foot distance between each of them, that’s 120 feet of a hallway or exterior wall needed to accommodate the class. Who will monitor the students in the back of the line if the teacher needs to be up front to make sure the children aren’t fooling around in the bathroom? Are parents willing to step up to fill in the gaps with staff that become ill? It simply isn’t worth the risk.

William Hicks

What about the years previous to COVID? What excuse do you have for the consistent loss of ADA funds due to a tone deaf school district?

Edward Garnett

For the safety of our educators, do not open the schools in August. Too much COVID out there and it is dangerous, not only to the students, but also to the teachers. Keep it closed for now!

William Hicks

How long?

Chris Sheehan

I don’t see the crisis. Any American living in the CVUSD can home school their children in 1/2 the time each day the school requires. Declare the State funded babysitting service over, and be a parent.

All your kids get is spoon fed indoctrination in public school anyway. Cut the cord.