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Statement: “We just completed a school year behind us with five-year highs in attendance,” San Diego Unified Superintendent Bill Kowba said during an Aug. 25 interview on Fox 5’s morning news show.

Determination: True

Analysis: With classes starting at San Diego’s public schools this week, Kowba recently appeared on Fox 5 to talk about the district’s new budget, its academic accomplishments and recommendations for parents. On the last topic, he urged parents to make sure their kids attend school.

As my colleague Emily Alpert explained last year, attendance rates are vital for San Diego Unified. The district gets more funding if more students show up, and students who miss class often are far more likely to fall behind in class, the first step in a slippery slope to dropping out completely.

So Kowba’s description of attendance last year sounded like good news. “We just completed a school year behind us with five-year highs in attendance,” he said.

That’s correct.

After attendance dropped in the 2009-2010 school year, San Diego Unified bounced back last year. Its attendance rate exceeded each of the previous four years, as illustrated in the graphic above. Last year, 95.7 percent of students attended school — slightly above each of the other years.

Though the year-to-year difference may appear small, even slight dips in attendance can cost the school district millions of dollars in funding that pays for teachers and special programs.

It’s worth noting that the attendance rate isn’t the only factor in that financial formula. Student enrollment — the actual number of students — does, too. While attendance has increased in recent years, enrollment has continued to fall. Since the 2007 school year, enrollment at traditional elementary, middle and high schools fell by about 1,400 students to 114,000.

What ultimately matters is how many students show up to school. If the percentage of students who go to school grows slightly but total enrollment plummets, the district gets less money.

Since Kowba referred to attendance, which has increased, we’ve rated his statement True. If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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