Parents billed when kids miss school: Pay for play


The Scotts Valley school system is asking parents to compensate the district when they take their kids out of school to go on vacation. Adds a new wrinkle to the phrase "pay for play".

I remember the days when we were taught the difference between the things you must do (obligations, responsibilities) and the things you want to do.

Comments (40)
  1. Art says:

    I remember the days when we were taught the difference between the things you must do (obligations, responsibilities) and the things you want to do.

    I don’t understand what this sentence has to do with the preceding paragraph.  Which is the "must" and which is the "want"?

  2. It is amazing to me that schools try to disallow parent-controlled, self-selected absences.  Would anyone work for a company that required 100% attendance during 9.5 months of the year w/ 0 vacation?  The fact that funding can be affected by this is even more amazing.

    Fix the problem (allow "vacation days" for students), don’t try to spend money (it costs money to send voluntary invoices) to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

  3. anon says:

    It is amazing to me that schools try to disallow parent-controlled, self-selected absences.  Would anyone work for a company that required 100% attendance during 9.5 months of the year w/ 0 vacation?  The fact that funding can be affected by this is even more amazing.

    Er, yeah, that sounds pretty good.  It’s not like those 9.5 months are consecutive.  Most K-12 students get a week off every two months or so.  (And of course, sick days are fine.)

    Beats my vacation plan.

  4. Er, yeah, that sounds pretty good.  It’s not like those 9.5 months are consecutive.  Most K-12 students get a week off every two months or so.  (And of course, sick days are fine.)

    Try implementing it at your office (admittedly not w/ a summer break) and watch the wailing commence. :)  Seriously, if it was so great, this problem wouldn’t exist.

  5. Programmerman says:

    That last sentence sounds very "fogey-ish," like it could be followed with "And kids knew to stay off people’s lawns" or something like that. I thought Larry Osterman’s blog was "Confessions of an Old Fogey" (which is said for humor, not as a statement about the content of Mr. Osterman’s blog, which I also love).

  6. Ben Voigt [C++ MVP] says:

    This school system seems to have a serious misunderstanding about whose kids, and whose money, they are handling.

    First up, chances are that the school isn’t losing the money because they aren’t even reporting the absences honestly.  I’ve heard of other districts reporting homeschooled children as in attendance in order to get the money.

    But more importantly, the parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children.  This whole "we can charge you for deciding what to do with your kids" is scarcely removed from other news stories with schools failing to give parents the Constitutionally-mandated opportunity to opt their children out of activities which they find offensive (e.g. sex education).

    But the article didn’t even mention the infringement on parents’ rights… instead displaying an attitude that the money rightfully belongs to the school district.  What gives?

  7. Mike says:

    I imagine that the schools try to justify it by saying that teachers must take uncompensated extra time to prepare lessons ahead of time and/or give out lessons after the fact to the students that weren’t there when everybody else was.  And there would be some truth to that, although I strongly doubt the teacher(s) directly affected would actually be give the fee.

    This smells strongly like all the miscellaneous fees utilities tack on to the bill, mostly because they can, despite whatever feel-good "to serve you better" propaganda they push out at the same time.

  8. cthulhu says:

    Kids should be kept busy working the mills.

  9. Aaargh! says:

    It is amazing to me that schools try to disallow parent-controlled, self-selected absences.

    Why are you surprised about that ? Teaching is usually done in groups, if a child misses a few weeks of school it has to catch up to the rest of the group. This costs extra time and resources from both the teacher and child and ultimately results in less time spent studying the subjects that were discussed during the period of absence. In short: it interferes with the child’s education.

    Over here (the Netherlands) it’s illegal to keep children between ages 5 and 18 out of school (There are exceptions, e.g. illness, funeral of a relative, etc.) You can get fined, not by the school but by the justice system, and even go to prison for keeping your kid out of school.

    Fix the problem (allow "vacation days" for students),

    That’s not an option. That would require an individualized education for each child which would make the school system many times more expensive than it already is.

    But the article didn’t even mention the infringement on parents’ rights…

    It’s not about the parent’s rights, it’s about the child’s rights. Children have the right to a decent education, parents do not have the option to deny them that because it’s more convenient for them.

    In my opinion parents already have too many rights to interfere with their children. e.g. I also think parent’s shouldn’t be allowed to violate the child’s right to religious freedom by presenting their own religious views as ‘the truth’ when the  child is still at an impressionable age. IMHO the child’s rights supersede the parents’.

  10. Leo Davidson says:

    My memory might be faulty but, having been to school in both the UK and Australia, I don’t remember anyone ever taking time out of school to go on a family vacation.

    It probably happened once or twice but not often enough that I can remember it and certainly not enough that it was normal or a problem that would be worth introducing fines for.

    Is it a lot more common in the states or are some schools/areas overreacting to a handful of people?

    (I’ve been to school in the states but only pre-school or maybe year one.)

    I guess taking kids out of school for a day or two, or even more perhaps, is okay so long as the child will catch up on whatever they missed on their own (or with parental help, and some kids are entirely home-schooled, after all), but I wonder in how many cases that is true? Especially when the child will have to catch up after the vacation, when they’ll be given more work to do that depends on the first lot they haven’t done yet.

    Everyone here in the UK seems to manage perfectly well fitting their family holidays around the school holidays. Giving your kids a stable school environment is an important responsibility as parent and fitting holidays into such a schedule hardly seems like a massive sacrifice given how often school children get holidays.

  11. Geez says:

    Who decides what the child’s rights are? The nanny state? I’d much rather parents who more than likely care about me make decisions about my life thank-you-very-much mr brainwashed.

  12. David says:

    True pay for play would mean charging parents for their child’s schooling (per child), and not charging non-parents (through property taxes). If your kid’s out of school for a while, you should get a partial refund.

    The Netherlands’ approach sounds a bit too statist.

    [The word “play” was a pun. -Raymond]
  13. Bob says:

    I have a theory.

    If you believe the government is evil and you can educate your children more effectively, home-school them, and arrange holdidays to suit.

    If you think that teaching is a skilled profession and that there’s value to schools, then possibly consider that part of the contract is "the kid has to actually be there" and get over it.

    What I find most entertaining is alleged professionals are always crying that their customers hack together an Access database and some spreadsheets without understanding the complexities of the software profession, then go on with the "those who can, do, those who can’t, teach" mantra as if there’s no skill involved in education.

    Any parent who "cares about their child" but is too retarded to understand the value of a competent teacher isn’t impressing me.

  14. Dan says:

    A certain amount of sick days are necessary because kids do get sick.  As long as there are sick days then some people will use then as vacation days.  It is better for the school to have an official acknowledge of the desire for the occassional family vacation or college visit by allowing for some form of limited prearranged absence.  Particularly since approved school activities tend to create a certain amount of school absences anyway.  I missed more class in high school because of school activities like special tests, sports, honor societies, and other obligations than I ever did by not coming to school. (For those wondering, I missed 5 days of high school, all of which were prearranged, 1 college visit + 4 vacation days)

  15. Geez says:

    Bob, where can you find these competent teachers? I went to 7 public elementary/high schools before I finally decided to leave and study on my own. I had a 60% average the year before I left. I stayed registered in the same school, did the same exams and had > 90% average the remaining years in high school.

    I’m sorry, I don’t buy this competent teacher bullshit.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Aaargh:

    That’s a very superficial thought on a child’s rights.  I’m pretty sure if you asked most children, they would want the vacation.  If you ignore that, then claiming "child’s right to education" is pretty hypocritical.  I don’t know what proportion feel the same when they grow to adulthood.  I definitely don’t regret any of my school-year vacations (usually a friday here and there; one time in high school it was three glorious weeks in Hawaii celebrating my sister’s graduation though — I admit that’s a bit extreme).

    This isn’t even close to being religious indoctrination.  Nor, mind you, is the right to religious freedom equal to the right to not hear the opinions of people you love and trust, even if the opinions expressed are strongly held, and stupid.  As a matter of fact, that’s the exact opposite to the right to religious freedom.  Which bothers me, but not as much as eliminating it would bother me.  Kind of like it bothers me to see KKK literature, but it would also bother me to ban it.

    That said, as these are request-only bills (not actual charges), this isn’t a huge problem to me.

    Missing an average of 2.3 days a year on a schedule which you have no real influence over and was forced upon you seems impressive, actually.  Depending on where they went, that can be far more educational than a classroom.  Which is the view my school district took on vacations.

  17. Dusty says:

    On some planets, not unlike this one, human beings have personalities and thus behave differently, even at young ages.  There, the adults have realized that because of these "personalities" they don’t raise their children according to some hard and fast rules.  The adults take the time and involvement to customize the experience for their child.  Some parents take their kids out, because they know their kids can learn outside the classroom.  Others leave their children in school and make sure they attend 100% of the time because they know the what the child enjoys and needs to be successful.

    It’s really a different world.

  18. Erik says:

    @Geez "Bob, where can you find these competent teachers?"

    Downers Grove, IL, USA

    @Bob

    I completely agree with your assessment of how insulting and ignorant the "those who can, do, those who can’t, teach" mantra is.  Teaching takes dedication and skill- and is woefully underpaid here in the U.S.  We software professionals will recognize that clear and concise communication between team members is a key predictor of project success.  Well, what is teaching if not communication?  Those who have learned to communicate effectively (thanks to the efforts of their teachers) will become better employees when they join the workforce.

  19. dave says:

    Geez: "where can you find these competent teachers?"

    They’re working in places where their skills get appreciated, which might explain why you’ve never encountered one.

    I’ve had several, and even (especially?) with a knowledgeable and motivated student, there’s a HUGE difference between a good teacher and a merely competent one.  (Of course, either of those is vastly preferred over a poor one.)

  20. J says:

    "I’d much rather parents who more than likely care about me make decisions about my life thank-you-very-much mr brainwashed."

    Not all kids are better off having their parents make decisions for them.  Uneducated parents tend not to understand or value the importance of education.  Very poor parents tend to value money over education, making the student work instead of learn.  Some parents themselves just can’t make good decisions, and these decisions hurt their kids.

    Bad parents exist.  In some areas, only the truly gifted or very lucky can lift themselves out of the holes that their parents dug for them.

  21. Erzengel says:

    Mike said "that the schools try to justify it by saying that teachers must take uncompensated extra time to prepare lessons ahead of time and/or give out lessons after the fact to the students that weren’t there when everybody else was.  And there would be some truth to that"

    In my experience, teachers don’t do that. You missed the lesson, they’re not going to teach it to you. You come back from a 2 week illness on the day of the test for a subject they started while you were sick, you take the test and that was it. Any test you missed you got a 0 on. My straight As went to Cs and a couple Bs when I had such an illness during my sophomore year. So I’d have to say that at least in San Diego that’s not an honest justification.

    At least according to the article it’s a "request", not a "requirement".

  22. Neil (SM) says:

    Another aspect to this may be similar to the story of the day care in "Freakonomics."  A day care decided to start charging parents a small fee for picking their kids up late at the end of the day.

    To their surprise this resulted in a huge increase in late-pickups instead of acting as a deterrent.  Why?  Most likely because the parents no longer worried about making things easier for the day-care workers, and instead were driven by the monetary incentive.  It gave them the option to just pay the fee and not worry about it, in other words.

  23. dsn says:

    I remember when my family went on a trip to Australia – my father sent a letter to the school saying “I am taking my son out of school so he can get an education”, and that was that.  The idea that people learn more in a day of school than they would actually seeing the world seems questionable to me.

    [If you read the article, the issue isn’t with educational trips to Australia. It’s about ski vacations and visits to Disneyland. -Raymond]
  24. hexatron says:

    Did anyone read the article?

    The state pays the school district based on actual attendance.

    Elective absences blew a $223000 hole in the year’s budget.

    Nothing about "extra prep time by teacher’s" or other poster’s fever dreams.

  25. John says:

    Schools *should* discourage vacations during the school year. Growing up, family vacations always coincided with a big business trip, poorly timed a few weeks into the start of the school year. Year after year. I always felt lost when I got back to school and it affected my learning and my grades.

    My third year in high school a teacher flat out refused to sign the permission form. For some reason, I didn’t argue with it and my parents let me stay home. (I was a stupid kid and never thought I could say "no" to the vacation) This was the first year in all my schooling that I had perfect attendance *and* straight A’s. I’m sure other factors contributed, but when I have a kid I’m never taking him out of school during the school year.

  26. Nathaniel says:

    If the problem is that the school’s funding is based on attendance, how about they fix the problem? I can’t think of much in the way of school expenses that scale with attendance rather than enrollment. Why is the school being charged for absences?

  27. rdamiani says:

    @Nathaniel

    "Why is the school being charged for absences?"

    So the school will be motivated to reduce absences.

  28. Drak says:

    @Geez: You find competent teachers among the incompetent ones. During my brief enrollment in college I had one teacher (Discrete Math 6) who really enjoyed teaching and was very knowledgable about his subject and was able to pass this knowledge to the entire class (very high average score on the tests), and one teacher (Computer Science 4) who basically sat in front of the class and read from the text book. Needless to say I never went to that class after the first 2 weeks because I could read the text faster than he could.

    But I guess there are good teachers and bad teachers. You just have to be lucky to get a good one for a subject that is more diffivult for you.

  29. Ray says:

    Maybe I was unusual, I don’t remember it especially well, but during most of my school days, my family went on holiday during school time, anything from 1 week, to 2+1 weeks in a year. from my parents’ point of view, out-of-school-season holidays probably cost them 1/3 as much (watch those prices rise when school’s out!!). from my point of view, it was free time off school, and from an educational point of view I always came back refreshed.

    To be honest, I think I came out better for it too, or at least not any worse. I was still top, or nearly so in everything that held any interest for me.

    Maybe I had especially good teachers, but they just gave me the work that was scheduled for the next 1 or 2 weeks. Being too young to party and old enough to be left on my own (not Maddy McCann style), anything I didn’t do before we left gave me something to do in the evenings.

    All this sounds to me like is a scheme waiting for lots of kids to suddenly go off "sick" for a week or two.

  30. Jonathan Ellis says:

    And I remember when a public school education was of such high caliber that you could call it an obligation with a straight face.

    Oh wait –no I don’t, I’m only 32.

  31. I don’t understand what this sentence has to do with the preceding paragraph.  Which is the "must" and which is the "want"?

    You’re confused because you’re assuming that Raymond is criticizing the school system … which he may have been doing in the previous paragraph, or he may have been just setting up his punch line.

    Here, he is commenting on the attitudes of parents and children … the "must" (i.e. responsibility) is to attend school .. the "want" is go on vacation. The fact that people elect to go on vacation on such a massive scale that it becomes necessary to charge for it to balance the budget indicates that attending school has changed from a "must" to a "want," at least in the minds of some parents

  32. Anonymous says:

    Larry,

    ‘The fact that people elect to go on vacation on such a massive scale that it becomes necessary to charge for it to balance the budget indicates that attending school has changed from a "must" to a "want," at least in the minds of some parents’

    If you’ll read the article, "In California, under a formula that dates to the 1930s, how much a school receives in tax dollars is based on how many students are in class on any given day." Thus student not in seat => funding denied by State.

    This has nothing to do with why the student was out of the seat (possibly excepting a single-digit number of sick days per semester — they don’t say), but with the fact that abscences hurt the school’s bottom line. In other words, regardless of the educational opportunity outside of school, the gravity of the vacation excuse may prevent the "optional bill" from being sent (they don’t say), but it doesn’t affect the underlying budget consideration.

    It’s a perverse incentive, and I hope this visibility leads to improvements or more home schooling (same thing).

  33. Teaching is usually done in groups, if a child misses a few weeks of school it has to catch up

    to the rest of the group. This costs extra time and resources from both the teacher and child and

    ultimately results in less time spent studying the subjects that were discussed during the period

    of absence. In short: it interferes with the child’s education.

    Weeks?  I never said anything about weeks.  I’m talking about a couple of days a year (extended weekend, that kind of thing).  Its no bigger impact than a sick day, really, so why not just let them have a few?

    Over here (the Netherlands) it’s illegal to keep children between ages 5 and 18 out of school (There are

    exceptions, e.g. illness, funeral of a relative, etc.) You can get fined, not by the school but by the

    justice system, and even go to prison for keeping your kid out of school.

    That’s not an option. That would require an individualized education for each child which would make the

    school system many times more expensive than it already is.

    If you can afford an occasional sick day without doubling school costs, you can afford an occasional vacation day.

    Poor parents == lower avg grades

    Good parents == higher avg grades

    Occasional 1-2 day vacation == orthogonal issue

  34. tekumse says:

    Considering child obesity is skyrocketing kids desperately all the ski vacations they can get.  In my daughter’s primary school kids are not allowed to run at all all day for most of the school year.  Of course that’s not the policy but a myriad of small policies result in this.  No running on asphalt, not running in the corridors, classrooms, not running on the snow, etc…

    And I bet even at Disney a kid would spend as much calories in a day as it usually spends moping for a whole week of school.

  35. lanG says:

    no one is actually required to pay

  36. Geez says:

    The educational system is full of well-meaning people but I’ll be damned if it teaches you a single thing about real life but how to become dependent on others for validation. There’s a reason why the dropout rate is so high in the US, a "developed" country. The standardized, conformist educational system cannot possibly handle the diversity.

    The ability to live in and enjoy the world without living under the thumb of conformity is the most important byproduct of a real education.

    You want to leave that up to the educational lottery?

    No thanks.

    We homeschool. We’re secular. We live in the city. Our kids direct their own education aside from core subjects and are 2 and 3 "grades" ahead. We’ve had to sacrifice financially (though I will take home 200K this year as proceeds from the business, we started with an income of 40K between us 3 years back)

  37. Geez says:

    Dave says: I’ve had several, and even (especially?) with a knowledgeable and motivated student, there’s a HUGE difference between a good teacher and a merely competent one

    LOL, you just proved my point. Let me rephrase it so it is more obvious:

    "I’ve had several, and even (especially?) when the student is PERCEIVED BY THE TEACHER as knowledgeable and motivated, there’s a HUGE difference between a good teacher and a merely competent one."

    Let me relate a story to you. The high school I went to had gangbangers. In a drama class, we had one such student. No one wanted this guy in their group because they perceived him as lazy and indeed, the drama teacher treated him as such. Since I had sat with him and got to know him, I knew he was not a bad guy. I asked him to join our group.

    Fast forward a few weeks later and we have to do our presentations.

    The drama teacher came up to me after and said: "I can’t believe you got him to be motivated and excited about drama." In fact, we got the highest marks in the class. As far as I know, he actually started going to after-school drama classes.

    As long as he was perceived by the teacher as lazy, inarticulate, stupid or whatever else, he was ignored.

    Now how many of those do we lose every year?

    And this drama teacher was great.

  38. Geez says:

    PS: My sincere apologies to Raymond for using your comments as a soap box. Education is something I feel very strongly about!

  39. James Bray says:

    Am i the only one that read this as:

    "Parents **killed** when kids miss school: Pay for play"

    :-)

    James

  40. violet says:

    @Bob What if you believe that public schooling a structurally flawed system in which even the best and most talented teachers will have a very difficult time teaching, and even the best and most dedicated students will have a difficult time learning? But, also, you believe that it is illegal (and probably unwise) to provide no educational structure for your kids, and it is illegal (and certainly unwise) to provide no *food* for your kids, and since providing the latter requires that you work rather than spend your time home schooling, the former will just have to be provided by public schools.

    Given that, if you have the time and resources why not kip off with your kids for a bit every now and again? They’ll probably be happy about it, and it’s not like they’re actually missing a lot in school, anyway.

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