I am relatively new to this mom-of-a-school-aged-child thing. My oldest is in first grade. She was in public school for the second half of her kindergarten year, and she had perfect attendance. She’s been in first grade for nine weeks now, and she’s had five absences; four due to illness and one due to travel.
I have already received a stern letter from the school district regarding my daughter’s absences. Part of the problem is me; I neglected to send a signed note within 48 hours of her absences, and so three of her absences were counted as unexcused. Part of the problem is how much push there is for attendance. Even the Attendance Counts information provided by our district, PISD, is somewhat contradictory – exclaiming how important attendance is to funding, but advising readers to keep sick kids home.
For four of her absences, my daughter was ill – ill enough that she had no business being at school. She had fever, sore throat, and a cough – on two separate occasions. Yet, I still feel guilty for her absences. I don’t want to take money away from her school; I know how important that funding is for the purpose of educating our children. I don’t really understand how or why state funding for Texas schools is calculated based on day-to-day attendance, but it is…to the tune of millions of dollars lost or gained by slight changes in attendance. According to this article from the Statesman, even an attendance rate above 90% means a school is losing too much money.
So, now it’s cold and flu season. I am scared to contemplate the home visits I might get from truancy officers if, Universe forbid, my child ends up ill with the flu. The right thing is for me to keep her home when she’s ill. The right thing is also for me to send her to school to help ensure adequate funding for her and all of her peers. Knowing this tiny bit about how the state funding works and also knowing the risk of heavy consequences (the possibility of a child being held back and/or parents being subject to being charged with a criminal offense for chronic and/or extensive absences according to the student handbook for PISD) makes assessing my child’s health that much more difficult simply because we are at the beginning of the school year and she’s already had five absences. I know that there are going to be times she’s miserable, but doesn’t have a fever and isn’t technically considered contagious. My motherly instinct is to keep her home and give her rest and time to recuperate, but I have to consider if that is the right decision for the school as a whole, and that feels wrong to me.
What do other parents do? Does the calculation of state funding for your child’s school impact how you handle illness and related absences?