Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Should students be bribed into attending class?

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Are truancy officers about to get help in fighting absenteeism?

According to the New York Post, the Ohio legislature is considering a bipartisan pilot program that would make cash transfers to select kindergarten and ninth-grade students if they show up a whopping 90 percent of the time.

(One of my friends remarked that the $1.5 million project is called a pilot program because it makes as much sense as a beagle flying a WW I Sopwith Camel. But I digress.)

Schools have exhausted other methods of motivating students (yearround dunking machines showed promise, but principals balked when hydrochloric acid kept mysteriously disappearing from the chemistry lab), so the payment experiment is part of throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks.

(“No, Bobby, we’re not going to pay you not to throw things against the wall.”) I admire the good intentions of the legislators (and like-minded lawmakers in other states), but there are limitless ways for this to implode.

For starters, you realize, of course, that getting a reluctant student to darken the doorway of home room is just the first tentative step of having them participate, learn and truly earn a diploma.

Some cagey young entrepreneur will inevitably game the system with budget-busting add-ons. (“Now that I’m here, teacher, perhaps you would like to see our price list. I recommend our savory ‘walk single file/show your work’ combo platter.”) These same entrepreneurs may draw inspiration from the existence of substitute teachers and delegate some responsibilities. (“No, you haven’t seen me before. I’m a substitute Caitlyn. We do a 70-30 split while she’s playing hooky.”) Granted, pay-for-attendance may curtail some social justice controversies. (“Who cares what my pronoun is? Here’s my Cayman Islands routing number. That’s all I care about.”) And at least disenchanted students will no longer have the old “When will I ever use the stuff they teach in school in real life?” lament. (“Can’t wait until I’m a surgeon and start negotiating about hanging around AFTER I open up the thoracic cavity! KA-CHING!”) A sizable percentage of potential dropouts will inevitably decide that the payments are either irresistible or insultingly low. For the former, that could mean dragging themselves to school even when their medical condition makes it unwise. (“I was determined to deliver my big essay today, no matter what. Where is it, you ask? My plague-infested pet rat ate it.”) As for students who become immune to the initial financial rewards, states and school districts may have to take drastic steps, involving property tax, pension funds and other resources. (“The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round – even without fancy-schmancy new tires.”) And let’s be realistic. Boredom, laziness and social awkwardness are not the only reasons students avoid school. Some come from a bad home environment and would not necessarily retain control of their attendance bonus. (“Mrs. Johnson, could the school board possibly swing letting me earn attendance points on weekends, too?”) I wish school systems well going forward, but there will be animosity from generations of scholars who maintained near-perfect attendance with no reward other than a passing remark in the graduation line.

(“Okay, the young punks get half the money after displaying good attendance – and the other half after they walk five miles to and from school in snow, uphill both ways.”) Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666