Saturday, March 10, 2007

Consider it "personal leave days"

This is coming from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

If you take Highway 17 from San Jose south towards Santa Cruz, you'll eventually come to an upper/upper-middle class community called Scotts Valley. The school in Scotts Valley is suffering from the same problem that many schools are now afflicted with, declining enrollment. For those of you that are not familiar with how schools are funded, here's a little lesson.

State funding for schools is based in large part on a formula called "average daily attendance." Districts aren't paid for how many students are enrolled in their schools, but how many kids show up for classes. So, more absences means less money.
So, if a student misses school, for any reason at all, the school receives less money to function. Kid is sick? School loses money. Death in the family? School loses money. Now, those two absence reasons are perfectly legitimate. However, it isn't death and illness that is killing funding for schools. Think about trips to Hawaii or camping, or week trips to snowboard at NorthStar, or shopping trips for Prom dresses, or simply cutting class. All those missing days add up to hundreds of thousands, or millions, in lost money to keep programs going.

Well, Scotts Valley is now asking parents to pay for those unexcused absences.
Frustrated by children missing class for long weekend ski trips and jaunts to Disneyland, the local school district is trying a novel approach to persuade parents to keep them in school.
It's sending them bills - $36.13 per day.
The bills are merely a request for reimbursement; no one is actually required to pay. But some parents in the well-to-do community 30 miles south of Silicon Valley are handing over the money, seeing it as a way to ease a guilty conscience.
Actually, this should be seen as a real world experiment on kids having to actually pay for missing work days, like the rest of us. And there are parents that are pissed that it is a public school, and therefore everything should be "free" for their kids since tax dollars are going into the child's education. What the parents don't realize is that when the kids miss school, the tax dollars aren't going into the kids education because of the ADA rule.

Would this work in Ukiah? Probably not, as the town is much, much lower in the income bracket than Scotts Valley. But the idea is interesting because it puts at least the idea of parent accountability into the education of the kids. Still, something is going to have to be done in this town if the parents don't want to see programs and extra-curriculars cut. The district is in declining enrollment, costs for everything (except teacher salaries) is sky-rocketing, and choices are going to have to be made.
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