Student 'no-shows' cost school districts millions in lost revenue
by Mary Scott Nabers
CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.
"Missing school matters!" That’s the message Austin’s E3 Alliance and the Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) are delivering regarding the impact of an empty desk in any public school classroom in Central Texas.
School absences not only result in a loss of valuable teaching and learning time for teachers and students, but state revenues flowing to the school districts are significantly impacted. In fact, millions of dollars can be lost in state funding because of students who don’t show up for class. At a time when public schools face profound state and federal funding cuts and looming deficits, every single dollar lost has a significant impact.
In Central Texas alone, according to the E3 Alliance (Education Equals Economics), there are 2.4 million student absences each year. The alliance says if schools in Central Texas could increase average attendance by only three days, the school districts in that region could gain as much as $34 million in annual revenue. That’s because most school district funding is based on average daily attendance of students.
Multiple absences and multiple-day absences by individual students can have long-term effects. E3 officials say student performance is directly related to absences. Their research shows that half of the students in Central Texas schools are absent more than six class days per year, which accounts for 85 percent of all absences. And ninth graders miss three days more than students in other grades. Of those ninth grade students who are “kept back” a grade, dropout rates are 10 times higher than those students who were promoted.
Central Texas school officials have told E3 that the top priority for how local communities can help their schools is to increase student attendance. And it is in the best interest of every community to join in this effort. Today’s students are tomorrow’s business leaders and their success, or lack of it, will shape the economic well-being of their hometowns.
AARO and E3 are looking for ways to involve the community in addressing – and improving – attendance numbers for public school students. They hope to involve all aspects of the community – educators, businesses, health care providers, community groups and those that can make financial commitments.
Absent this type of collaborative effort between the schools and the communities that support them, revenue shortfalls resulting from student absences will mean larger class sizes, fewer teachers, fewer supplies, less support staff and inadequate funding. It will likely also mean more financial burden for taxpayers in the various school districts.
But, equally as important as the loss of revenue is the effect those absences have on students. Those with poor attendance records often become dropouts, and later contribute to local figures for homelessness, poverty, unemployment and criminal activity.
E3 and AARO are currently joining other local organizations across the nation in a "Get Schooled" attendance challenge. The campaign is targeting 40,000 students in grades 7-10. Schools will compete with each other for “points” awarded for improved attendance numbers. The approximately 150 schools that have already participated in the program report an increase in school attendance of 3 percentage points. With $35 million in cuts in state school funding over the last biennium, every dollar of state funding is important. Communities are realizing that missing school really does matter!