Ohio has been dealing with a chronic problem in its public schools known as chronic absenteeism or truancy. That’s defined as a situation where students are missing more than ten percent of school days over a prolonged period. They were already dealing with this issue prior to the pandemic, but since then it’s gotten considerably worse, with an average of more than 30 percent of students failing to meet the 90% attendance rate. Now the legislature is proposing a novel solution, They are launching a pilot program where some students would be paid to attend school more often. Students meeting the benchmark will receive $25 every two weeks for good attendance, with larger bonuses on a monthly and semester basis, with an additional bonus for graduating high school. But is this really a sensible approach? (NY Post)
Students as young as five could get paid to show up to class under a proposed Ohio law aimed at fighting absenteeism.
Under a pilot program, the state would make biweekly $25 cash transfers to select kindergarten and 9th grade students just for showing up to class nine out of 10 days in the two-week span.
Students who kept up a 90% attendance rate for the year would get $150 at the end of each quarter and $700 at the end of the year.
The initial pilot program will only be offered to students in kindergarten and 9th grade in a few rural and urban school districts. The biweekly $25 payments for kindergarteners would go to the parents while the high school students would be paid directly. To earn the money, they will need to attend school for nine days in each two-week period. For those who keep up with their good attendance rates, a $150 bonus will be paid at the end of each quarter, with another $700 bonus at the end of the school year.
GOP state representative Josh Williams raised what should be some obvious questions about the plan. Are we really going to start paying children to do what they are already obligated to do? There are truancy laws in Ohio. Unless they are enrolled in a homeschooling program, children are supposed to be in school and their parents are responsible for making sure they are. Williams went on to ask if Ohio was going to start paying rapists not to rape people.
If children are chronically absent from school, the fault lies with their parents or guardians. Do these parents even know where their children are during the day? Children being left to run wild rather than going to school can potentially lead to even more problems than their failure to earn a diploma and be successful in their adult lives. Too much unsupervised free time may lead some of them to fall in with gangs. As we were often told by our elders back in the day, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
An alternative to this bribery program might be to begin imposing fines on parents who don’t crack down on their children’s chronic absenteeism. Exceptions would obviously need to be made for children with chronic health problems that keep them out of school, but those children should have tutoring made available to them. There could also be more emphasis and resources for homeschooling, eliminating the public school element from the formula. Of course, that’s difficult if both parents work full time, but if that’s the case they probably already need to make additional childcare arrangements. In any event, this cash-for-attendance scheme seems ill-conceived.
You can watch this brief report from NewsNation explaining the details of the program.