When local school children get sick, Sacramento benefits.

It’s bad enough that Santa Rosa school officials face the daunting task of cutting $5.65 million from the district’s already lean budget this year – with the prospect of having to cut another $4.7 million cut next year. Now the district may also have to take a financial hit from the swine flu as well.

During a visit this week with The Press Democrat Editorial Board, school officials told us that anecdotal evidence suggests there have been widespread absences in classrooms around Santa Rosa due to H1N1 flu – or parents being cautious about exposing their children to others with the flu. We’ve heard reports of some classrooms being half full.

What’s not clear is whether these absences are greater than in previous years. If so, it will cost the district – due to the fact that California schools are funded based on attendance.

For example, just a 1 percent decrease in average daily attendance in Santa Rosa, means local schools would lose about $1 million for the year. To put this in perspective, that’s equal to half the savings of trimming the school year by five days.

 “The level of impact on the budget is truly significant,” said Associate Superintendent Doug Bower. “That’s why it’s so concerning.” Bower plans to address this issue as part of a mid-year report to the board on Dec. 9.

By the way, who benefits when Santa Rosa schools loses funding due to sick children? Answer: Sacramento. That money disappears somewhere in the coffers of the state of California.

 Kind of sickening.

–    Paul Gullixson