Approximately 550 out-of-district transfer students attend the Davis public schools. At times, this has produced some pointed public comment at school board meetings, with local parents and homeowners — who typically point out that they paid more to buy a home in Davis, and pay local school parcel taxes to support academic programs in Davis — asking why students from another town are sitting in their kids’ classrooms.
Interdistrict transfer students can be found in almost every school district. State law gives a parent with a job in a given school district the right to request an interdistrict transfer. School districts can turn down such requests if there is no space available or, in the case of a high school student, it proves impossible to build an appropriate daily course schedule for a student of that age. In other words, employment at a location in a school district is basically second only to residency in terms of determining admission.
Da Vinci Charter Academy has a simpler process. A charter school does not need an interdistrict transfer agreement to enroll an out-of-district student. And both the junior high and high school Da Vinci programs have done so.
Legally, the Davis district cannot require the families of students from out of the district to pay the school parcel taxes that Davis property owners pay. The district does send a letter to those families, encouraging them to pay the equivalent of the parcel tax fees on a voluntary basis. But that’s as far as state law allows the school district to go.
Out-of-district students who are enrolled in the Davis schools do, however, bring in Average Daily Attendance funding from the state. And if the Davis school district was somehow forced to send all of 500-some out-of-district students to a school in their home district, the resulting loss of ADA likely would quickly trigger the closure of a neighborhood school somewhere in Davis.
Federal law also mandates that when a family living in economic distress becomes homeless, or is forced to move abruptly to a nearby community, parents have the right to keep their child in the same school.
There are also children in Davis schools whose families have moved to a nearby community for economic reasons, but who continue to send their child to a Davis school.
The numbers are not insignificant: According to the February report from Davis Demographics & Planning Inc., which prepares enrollment projections for the Davis school district, there are 72 students from Dixon, 99 students from West Sacramento and 328 students from Woodland who have a seat somewhere in the Davis public schools.
The number of students from Woodland has grown substantially over the past five years — from 93 in 2008-09 to 328 now. Not coincidentally, that five-year timespan coincides with what is commonly known as the Great Recession.
The past five years also have seen enrollment decline in most school districts.
The Davis Demographics report in February noted that there was a net gain of 116 transfer students into Davis this year, compared to 29 last year. At the same time, the report noted that Davis’ in-district population decreased by 104 K-12 students this year.
And the report noted that “the 2011 births (in Yolo County) were the lowest in 17 years” — including an overall decline of 14 percent in the number of births in the Davis area between 2006 and 2011. The report predicts, “This may result in shrinking kindergarten enrollment over the next few years.”
Demographers are forecasting an upturn in births from 2013 to 2020, as the wave of students who swelled school district enrollment in the late 1990s and early 2000s start becoming parents themselves. But the report cautions that “these children will not enter kindergarten until the 2017-18 school year.”
With the Davis housing stock holding pretty steady (only a few new housing units are being added each year), Davis Demographics is forecasting decreasing enrollment over the next 10 years in Davis, though the projected decline will not be particularly large in percentage terms.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.