As the Los Angeles Unified School District battles its teachers about a proposed walkout on Friday, and Compton Unified is preparing for a rally to highlight its looming $40 million deficit, the state department of education has just released its graduation and drop-out figures for the 2007-08 school year that showed a combined total of 18,380 students lost in three local districts.

Had these young people stayed in school, the districts would have received nearly $16.5 million in additional funding.

That is because a big part of the funding school districts receive is based on students’ average daily attendance, and when a child drops out of school, is absent or is suspended, that money is lost.

These are very rough numbers and do not take into account whether or not they dropped back in at some point during the school year.

The figures break down as follows: For the 2007-08 school year, LAUSD should have received $5,797 for each child; Compton was given $5,813 per pupil and Inglewood $5,786. This amount was calculated based on 180 days of attendance for all three districts.

Individually, had it not lost 17,060 students LAUSD would have collected an additional $9.8 million; Compton with its loss of 1,052 would have collected about $6.1 million and Inglewood (268 lost) would have received $1.5 million more.

The drop-out and graduation rates report was released by the state department of education Tuesday and shows that 68.3% of public school students in California graduated in the 2007-08 school year up only slightly from the 67.7% rate of the previous year.

As has happened during the last few years, the percentage of African American students leaving school between ninth and 12th grades leads all ethnic groups except American Indian or Alaska Native.

In the LAUSD, for example, 2,626 out of 75,777 (or 10.5%) of African Americans dropped out in 2007-08 compared to 12,373 of 506,232 (or 8.4%) of Hispanic youth; 1,078 of 61,270 (or 5.6%) of Whites; and 308 of 25,525 (or 3.7%) of Asians.

These numbers must be put into context however, because African Americans are only 10.9% of the district’s student population compared to 73% for Hispanic; 8.8% for Whites; and 3.7% for Asians.

In Inglewood Unified School District, 155 of 6,043 (8.9%) of African Americans dropped out compared to 104 of 8,932 (5.1%) of Hispanics. There are less than 100 each of Asian or White students in Inglewood schools.

African Americans lead the way in Compton Unified School District as well with 379 of 6,694 (17.8%) of students leaving school before graduation compared to 657 of 20,919 (or 13.7%) of Hispanic pupils. Again, Compton has fewer than 100 students each in the White or Asian ethnic subcategories.

The budget crisis that has gripped the state makes the minuscule gains in graduates and decrease in drop-outs even more troubling. As a result of the cutbacks expected, LAUSD and other school districts will have fewer resources to attack the drop-out problem.

LAUSD, for example, has Diploma Project Advisors (DPA) in 47 high schools and 33 middle schools where there are significant numbers of low-income students as well as many youngsters at risk academically, behaviorally and attendance wise. These individuals work to keep these students in school.

During the current school year, the salaries for these 80 individuals are paid by the central office, but for the next school year 2009-10, schools will have to “purchase” the support services of the DPAs. Many campuses must weigh the selection of these ancillary programs against the pressing need for instructors in core subject areas.