This gave districts leeway up to five unexcused absences per quarter as a definition for excessive, which most parents would agree is excessive. What has happened instead is that districts taking their ques from the Superintendents plan, have defined "excessive absenteeism" as being absent five days in one year! FIVE DAYS IN ONE YEAR REGARDLESS OF THE REASON!!! This is considered excessive!
But we elect you guys to protect our interests! As we see them, not as a bureaucrat or trained expert sees them.
We spent a LOT of time talking to our representatives about this, Mike. We traveled to the Capitol in a snowstorm to express our concerns about the expansion of the law this year. We held sustained dialogue with our own senators about the issue. We brought our kids down to the Capitol to share stories of what the original law did, and spent the better part of an hour working out an arrangement with the sponsor of the bill that would protect us from outrageous invasion of our families. But that rested on one thing - you! You and the other elected members of the School Board! We can do all that work, but you know the reality is that my senator cares more about what you board members have to say than about what I have to say. You know that as long as you're rubber stamping their policies, they feel like they must be doing a fine job, because you represent me and the interests of the education system, in their worldview.
We counted on our local truancy policies being applied, not on having them wiped out and overhauled to put teeth into this threat. We counted on our school boards to have minds of their own, to be able to see the terrifying, unintended consequences of this monstrosity and say, "We'll trust the good parents who have raised the good students who have given us our distinguished reputation and leave our truancy policy as is, thank you very much!", not to listen to the experts tell them its better for everybody. We counted on some good old Nebraska common sense about what free countries ought to look like. Can you see George Washington fighting for this sort of sytem? Can you see Thomas Jefferson defending its intrusions? I can't. But I sure can see Nazi Germany pleased at the extent to which they've overridden the natural rights of parents, and created a greater obligation to the state - all for their own good!
Do the people supporting these changes really want a student to miss a chance to visit, say, the Grand Canyon, Gettysburg, Washington D.C., or even an international destination? Every reasonable person knows that the actual experience of a place will teach far more than reading about it, and I would think that educators would be very happy when their students get to take advantage of these opportunities, especially when they also finish their homework before they even return to school.
But these policies will also sweep up the child who finds out a day in advance that she must attend her grandmother's funeral out of state, and prevent her from doing that work on the way out, rather than after the emotional event; the chronically ill student going in for surgery from doing the work while pre-op and recovering in the hospital; the student who's aunt is getting married in October at a destination location. What the heck?
The whole thing is extremely disturbing. We were told this new law was to prevent dropping out and deliquency. It does a little to prevent delinquency or dropping out, but it does far more to DIRECTLY target conscientous, responsible families who have no desire to get tangled up with the law. With the revision of the local truancy policies - the last piece in this horrible puzzle - it's obvious that its about everyone - straight A students, accomplished club athletes, musicians who train outside the school system, families who have the opportunity to travel a lot, families who get sick a lot - EVERYONE! And that leaves me convinced that its about money and control, and ultimately, NCLB. You can't make a fabulous district like Millard "better" unless you force the good people to be in their seats more often! To get those federal dollars, you have to improve your attendance rates every stinking year.
It's not right. And it won't stop until someone, somewhere, with a position of "influence" has the guts to stand up to the machine (can you hear me pleading here?) and say no. We've got a system that works, and it works well, and we won't jump through these hoops and into your chains to get that money you're dangling in front of us.
Formerly of Omaha, NE
Millard Public Schools