From today's Nashville City Paper comes this article about the request for more money for attendance personnel. I didn't think much of it until they quoted Mr. Marvin Flatt an Attendance Officer from Weakley County.
Back in 2002 he and Rep. Mark Maddox (also an LEA employee) put forth a piece of legislation to require homeschoolers to report to the LEA where their children were being educated if they left a church-related school. The problem, according to these men, was that 'homeschoolers were running amok' in their county and this was their solution. It eventually came out that those 'running amok' homeschoolers were actually public schoolers utilizing the phrase 'homeschooler' as a get out of jail free card. That's not something that either homeschoolers or attendance officers appreciate but further regulating homeschoolers wouldn't fix that problem. Thankfully, the legislation failed on a floor vote.
Back to Mr. Flatt and his request for $6 million dollars to fund an additional attendance officer in each of Tennessee's 136 school districts.,
Flatt, who made the request as chairman of Tennessee’s Attendance Steering Committee, said the need stems largely from the added responsibility of working with the new state student management system and related reports.
Attendance officers, many of whom he said lack the needed technology skills, often find their time consumed by gathering and reporting previously uncollected data to the state, leaving insufficient time to enforce truancy laws.
Based on my previous experience I've no doubt there is a truancy problem in Weakly County. It's a problem in many area. And I don't think that herding up the children and forcing them back into schools is really the answer.
A couple of questions about this request seem reasonable. Why are we employing officers that don't have basic technology skills in the year 2005? Why aren't they required to upgrade their skills in order to keep their jobs? Shouldn't additional personnel requests only be granted in districts where they can prove they have too many truants and not enough personnel? I would think that the needs of rural schools and urban ones may not be the same and there needs to be some flexibility for various situations.
This is the kicker quote:
He said the committee is seeking state dollars because local dollars are stretched providing needed instructional personnel, which he said should be the priority.
Yes, local dollars are stretched. I'm the local dollars as are the people in Weakly County and Shelby County and White County. I'm also the state dollars and the federal dollars. From the point of view of this bill payer in our home--it's taxes that are running amok.