The state’s new attendance policy, instituted in the 2013-2014 school year to impact the FY 2015 funding, mandates that students must be present 63 percent of the school day to be counted as present for the entire day. Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Michael Hood said this policy is based on instructional time of the school day and varies from student to student, based on a student’s schedule.
This includes checking students out of school for doctor’s appointment, family plans, and so on.
If a student is considered absent more than allowed by the state, funding for that student – approximately $5,000 per student according to Winona Superintendent of Education Dr. Teresa Jackson – will not be included in the Mississippi Adequate Education Program funding for the district the next school year.
Hood said Montgomery County Schools lost approximately $10,000 due to the new attendance policy.
According to Jackson, Winona Separate School District lost approximately $100,000 from student attendance.
With the state already not fully-funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, smaller school districts like those in Montgomery and Carroll Counties can’t afford more cuts. Since 2008, local districts have been operating on bare-bones budgets, but student achievement is expected to rise each year.
Although the state did not issue funding for those students with excessive absences, per the 63 percent rule, those students are still enrolled in school. Districts must ensure enough text books, teachers, desks, buses, and so on for all students enrolled.
Just think of how many teachers, computers, and textbooks districts could purchase with funds cut due to attendance? With underfunding from MAEP, now including cuts from attendance, the funding pinch can definitely be felt in the classroom.
Jackson stated last week that the Winona School District is working to educate parents and students about the importance of attendance. Not only does it affect funding, but students cannot learn the material if they are not in the classroom.
Parents need to be aware of the new attendance policy and do what is needed to keep students in school as much as possible. There is much more at stake than just funding. To receive a complete education, students need to be in the classroom.
Dr. Jackson said it best, “It isn’t just about funding. We can’t educate students if they don’t come to school.”