Student Absences Impact State Funding For Oklahoma Schools

Wednesday, September 30th 2009, 6:03 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA COUNTY -- When it comes to attendance, public school students who are absent for the count impact state funding.

The first attendance reports are due Thursday at the same time some districts are dealing with above average absences because of the H1N1 virus.

The flu could knock out some operating dollars for schools. That is because it's the number of students, both enrolled and in class, that determines how much they get from the state. Thursday is a milestone for attendance.

So far, it's been a good year for attendance in Tracy Grayson's kindergarten class in Sand Springs.

"When they have been gone, they haven't been gone a long time," said Tracy Grayson, a kindergarten teacher.

She's doing all she can to keep the children healthy, so they can come to class.

"It's important because things build on top of each other and if they miss, they won't understand what we're doing the next days afterward," said Tracy Grayson.

Attendance is especially important this time of year because it's when the state determines how much money each district will get.

"The first of October is a baseline for accreditation," said Delbo Leach, assistant superintendent at Sand Springs. "Then the middle of October or end of the first quarter gives us the statistics report, which is dealing with the numbers."

The state spends about $7,600 for each child in this second grade class. If they miss, the average attendance drops and so does the state funding.

It's easier to keep kids in school when they're younger, but as they get older and have jobs and other distractions, it becomes more difficult. School districts try to use extra incentives to keep kids in class.

"There's different things. Once they're in high school, they're earning credits toward graduation, that's an incentive in itself to get that diploma, but some kids need a little more encouraging," said Delbo Leach.

Leach says Sand Springs is at 95 percent attendance with 5,400 students enrolled. While it's always important to have children in class, the funding depends on having them in class at least through the middle of October.

In Sand Springs, Limestone Elementary has had almost a third of the students out sick this week.

The Oklahoma Department of Education told The News On 6 they are still looking at how to account for unusual illness while determining state funding.