With millions of dollars in extra state funding at stake, the staff of the East Side Union High School District spent months recruiting low-income students to sign up for the federal school meals program with the zeal of an Army recruiter.
The campaign paid off. Enrollment in the meals program increased. And because program enrollment is what districts use to identify low-income students, East Side Union will receive more money based on a new funding formula that targets those students.
The new Local Control Funding Formula adds 20 percent to the yearly base for every English learner, foster youth and low-income student in a district. At East Side Union, increasing its free and reduced lunch eligibility from 43 percent of the 22,700 students in the district to 51 percent will translate to about $800,000 more in funding next year. This will increase to an estimated $2.7 million when the transition to full funding under the formula is reached, potentially in six years, said Marcus Battle, associate superintendent for business services. Including English learners nudged the district’s proportion of targeted students to 55 percent, at which point districts get additional dollars.
While perseverance worked, what clinched the deal was not an appeal to help the district. It was the pitch to families’ self-interest. Low-income students enrolled in the meals program qualify for reduced fees for Advanced Placement exams – the price drops from $85 to $5 – and waived fees for the college SAT and ACT exams and for applying to state universities, said Julie Kasberger, Recruiting students for meals program pays off for East Side Union | EdSource Today: