Student absences costing schools big bucks

Student absences costing schools big bucks »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — If voters don't pass Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed tax increase, more funding cuts could be triggered.

The California school system is one place lawmakers will look to save money.

But, putting the governor's new taxes aside, there's another way to make sure schools aren't losing money. Every district gets money based on average daily attendance, and schools say saving money is as simple as getting your kid to class.

In a letter to parents, the Fruitvale School District is asking parents to do everything they can to get their students to school. According to the district, it cost's it $40 per day when a student is absent.

Eyewitness News decided to put that number in perspective. If a kid is absent only five days a year, it costs the school $200. Now, multiply that one child by five students, each missing five days, and that's $1,000 the school isn't getting for education.

Fruitvale, like every other district in Kern County, lists sickness as an excused absence. Unexcused absences are vacations, family trips, being more than 30 minutes late due to traffic, and oversleeping.

If a student has more than three unexcused absences, that child will be considered truant, which some parents believe is excessive despite the loss of funding.

"I think that's a little unreasonable. Family time is important. I had a little one at 7 months old diagnosed with leukemia, so it's hard to put a price tag on family time," says David Tate, parent at Columbia Elementary.

But, excused or not, any time a student isn't sitting in a classroom, the school looses money - much like an employee being sick costs a company.

"If you have a job, you are expected to be there at 8 a.m. everyday, so it's their job, and they are expected to be here everyday at 8, or 8:15," said Carla Morales, parent at Columbia Elementary.

Eyewitness News couldn't get any hard numbers from the district about how much it lost last year due to lack of attendance. There are some students that are chronically absent, costing districts across the county thousands each year.

We asked Fruitvale if they sent this letter out because they are short on money. Officials tell us that the letter is sent out standard every year.