School Absences and Their Impact on State Funding for Texas Schools

My daughter being comforted by our cat on a sick day.

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.Advertisement
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?


3 Comments on School Absences and Their Impact on State Funding for Texas Schools

  1. We live right up the road in Georgetown. Our district has a policy if the child misses any school due to anything other than illness or family emergency, the highest possible grade they can receive on any work submitted is a 70. We attend competitions on some weekends and have to leave early due to travel. Unfortunately, we’ve had to split travel between two cars to keep her in school long enough (10 am) to be counted as present. We are responsible parents, and our child has had perfect attendance for the past 3 years. We do not want to set her up to fail (limiting her efforts to the result of 70), nor do we want to teach her to lie (we do not say she is sick so she will not be penalized). We do consult with her teacher beforehand and ensure that all tests or assignments are completed either before we leave or completed during our trip and turned in upon our return.

    I do understand the need for funding as having worked within the school district before, but why are we penalizing the children in this manner, and why is there not some leeway? Why can they not allow them 1 absence with no penalty per semester or even per year? It is frustrating, not only for the child, but also for the parents.

  2. wow, heather! the impact on the grade is steep. you know, the absence my daughter had for travel wasn’t even an absence, per se. she was at school until 1 o’clock, and she still got counted as absent. she missed only about an hour and a half of her 7-hour day, and yet she was still counted as absent. yes, i agree that policies need to be more relaxed! thanks for weighing in, heather!

  3. I’m a broken record on this, I know, but blame the legislature. They have been so stingy with funding that schools are resorting to nagging families with legitimately sick kids.

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