“It’s radical,” some will say. Others will chime in that “It’s thinking out of the box.” Still others will decry the effort as picking on poor people. We say, “It’s about time.”
Tuesday, a plan was announced that hopes to head off a number of hair-pulling dilemmas -- from dropout and graduation rates -- to crime and the budget issues involving all of the above.
Superintendent of the Bibb County Schools Romain Dallemand, Marjorie Almand, director of Bibb County’s Department of Family and Children Services, Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, have come up with a not-so-novel 20-year-old idea. Parents and grandparents who are receiving public assistance must make sure the children under their care are in school -- and out of trouble -- or their benefits will be substantially cut.
Some hard facts:
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3,238 students missed five or more days of school for various reasons during the 2010-2011 school year.
1,239 students missed 15 or more days. Attendance is one of the factors determining whether a school makes Adequate Yearly Progress.
339 students missed 30 days or more.
On the discipline side of the equation:
7,914 students were suspended from school during the 2010-2011 school year, roughly a third of the total student population.
493 students were expelled.
703 students dropped out of school.
In the first month of the 2011-2012 school year, there were 763 suspensions. At that pace, student suspensions would almost match the previous year’s unacceptable total.
Why should the microscope of absenteeism and suspensions focus on DFCS recipients? Ninety percent of the juvenile justice cases are children of DFCS clients who receive $41 million annually just in food stamps, $150 million in Medicaid benefits.
By including grandparents, those who game the system will no longer be able to get around the imposed time limit for receiving benefits (4 years) or the responsibility clause, hitherto that applied just to parents and gives DFCS the authority to dock payments.
This new plan will not solve all the issues, but it will take a step in the right direction for making parents pay if they don’t want the responsibility that comes with the job.
-- Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board