Mayor Bloomberg has embarked on an ambition plan to improve school attendance and combat truancy in the NYC public schools, using a plan incorporating "volunteer mentors" to track the absent students.
Where are the truancy officers or the attendance teachers in the NYC schools in this plan? In the press release on the website of the NYC department of education, attendance teachers are not cited. Why not? Attendance teachers have special powers given to them by NYS Education law to not only compel the parents to send the students to school, but to arrest truant students. And a plan that does not incorporate this essential personnel with the years of experience they have behind them in a school attendance and truancy project is questionable and troubling.
Nearly ten years ago in 2002, the State Education Department (Section 104.1 of Commissioner's Regulations) required school districts to develop a Comprehensive Attendance Policy and requires the Boards of education or designee to review the yearly attendance data and if it drops to initiate a plan of improvement. The community should hold school districts and boards of education accountable for revamping attendance policy causing high truancy rates in a school district.
Thus, laws and regulations should be enforced and the personnel hired to get the job done such as a cadre of professional attendance teachers. The problem with the NYC plan is that it's window dressing the problem rather than seriously allowing those professionals in the field to improve on what methods have worked in the past.
But this requires Bloomberg and his lawyer Commissioner of Education to dedicate a source of permanent funding since there has been too many cuts in the budget of those in charge with attendance in the school district.
In the City of Buffalo, attendance has gone down since the district laid-off all of its attendance faculty in 2005 over a labor dispute with the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF).
So 15 attendance teacher laid-off and it has had a devastating impact on the school attendance of Junior high school and high school students with some high schools averaging as low as 74% attendance where before the attendance teachers laid off it had been 86%.
Still the data in hand, the Buffalo City School District officials continue to argue the merits of bringing back the laid off attendance teachers because they hesitate to pay them back their lost salaries which are a pittance of the school budget at over $800 million dollars.
There are only three attendance teachers in the Buffalo Schools for over 34,000 stuents, one retired last May and the District has not yet hired anyone to replace the teacher, leaving only two. And the teacher who retired had responsbility for the Special Education population numbering over 10,000 students.