Education Week posted a poll on Facebook regarding student absenteeism. The post does’t ask whether it should be a crime to miss school or whether compulsory schooling violates the rights of parents to raise their own children. It doesn’t ask whether the implementation of truancy laws has anything to do with the allocation of funds that schools get based upon the number of students present. It doesn’t ask any questions beyond “What can be done to fix absenteeism in school?”
Pernille Ripp rightly points out that the key answer missing from the options involve motivation. Why isn’t there an option involving engaging, student-centered, meaningful curriculum? Why are the solutions all about combatting the behaviors of absenteeism while ignoring the causes?
In my district, the causes of absenteeism are more complicated than anything Education Week has pointed out. Within the context of the Maryvale community (a low-SES enclave of Phoenix), absenteeism is rooted in larger, systemic injustice that goes beyond simply “more officers” or “reach out to parents.”
If it were my survey in my community, I would add the following options:
- Quit treating student absences as a criminal act and assuming that the state knows better than the parents how to raise a child. Quit criminalizing the victims of social injustice and help parents instead.
- Provide better jobs for parents (many of our students move frequently because they live transient lives)
- Provide a pathway to legal citizenship for immigrant families (families are fleeing to and from states out of fear of deportation, despite working hard and providing for their families)
- Daycare for parents with young children or a living wage so that families can live off of one income (many of our students miss school to watch younger siblings)
- Universal healthcare (many of our students miss school because they are not getting the preventative care that they need.)