Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 27, 2005

Public School Priorities

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:45 pm

James Taranto over at OpinionJournal quotes a story in the Almaden (Calif.) Times Weekly:

The San Jose Unified School District has started a crackdown on truancy in schools, a move that has many parents of truant students confused, frustrated and questioning the district’s motives.

The district loses $39.68 [of state taxpayer money] for each day a student misses school, whether the absence is excused or not. But San Jose Unified School District officials insist the crackdown isn’t about money, it’s about the kids.

“We’re being bombarded right now with ‘it’s about the money,’ ” said Nancy Danziger-Brock, an attendance improvement programs administrator for elementary schools at the San Jose Unified School District. “Until about two or three years ago, nobody even brought that up. And for me, when I started this program, which has become my passion, it’s about kids getting to school, getting fed, getting health care, getting their vision checked, getting their hearing checked, having counseling, getting their two meals a day and getting their education. . . .”

(The link includes a picture of the letter some parents received, summoning them to a meeting with “a representative from the District Attorney’s Office.”)

Taranto says the only thing that really must be said about this:

That list of what “it’s about” is quite something. We’re glad “getting their education” made the list, though its placement at No. 8 makes us wonder about the SJUSD’s priorities.

I went to a public high school in California — a lot more than “two or three years ago,” and I remember teachers and administrators discussing attendance and its connection with state money rather frequently. They discussed it openly in front of students, such as me, and parents. It’s no secret that people running schools care about money; they are always asking for more of it. Then again, that doesn’t make them much different from anybody else, does it?

Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers famously remarked in 1985, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

3 Responses to “Public School Priorities”

  1. MrsFish Says:

    The Los Alamitos USD has discussed billing parents the $39 for each absence of children.

  2. Different River Says:

    That’s a fascinating proposal! That does seem to imply it really is about the money, though.

    One question: What do they do if the parents refuse to pay? Kicking the kids out of school would clearly be counter-productive. What if they tries to collect in court — do they really have the right to the money? And if they establish the principle that every parent owes the school $39 per day, to pay paid either in attendance or in cash, are they going to go after home schoolers and parents with kids in private schools for the $39 a day they are “costing” the public schools by keeping their kids out?

  3. panda Says:

    Every resident of the school district has already paid their “fair share” in the form of taxes. Everyone’s property tax dollars go to pay for the schools, so in effect, billing parents (and especially home schoolers!!!) per day of school not attended by their children is a double tax on the same income – these people have paid their tuition up front and adding fees onto the back would be absurd. Would they also start billing families who send their kids to parochial or other private schools?

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