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Chronic Absenteeism is Becoming a Post Pandemic Problem

The perfect storm of economics, apathy, and the inability to cope.

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Articles, Education, Opinion

Ah, the well-orchestrated ditch days by students in the US public school system were often legendary. Tales to not tell your children but recall the glory days with pals at the reunion. Contrary to a high school student’s deep-felt belief, parents always knew. But now moms and dads are complicit in allowing children to stay home on a whim, and absenteeism has become a post-pandemic epidemic.

Between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 school years, there was an alarming 91% spike in skipping school, and an estimated 6.5 million students are chronically absent compared to before the pandemic. Yes, this generation is becoming an unwelcome statistic.

Nat Malkus, senior fellow and deputy director of AEI’s Education Policy Studies, created a “tracker” and is one of the many public school researchers beginning to panic. Chronic absenteeism, which refers to the number of students who missed at least 10% of a school year, has grown considerably – (15%) from 2018 to 28% in 2022 – according to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Most experts are pointing to COVID as the culprit, but other factors also play into the continual failure of the education system.

Um, the Pandemic Is Over

Forensic psychiatrist Carole Lieberman explained to Fox News Digital the ripple effect of absenteeism:

“The economic impact of school absenteeism is tremendous — both in terms of the ultimate earning power of the absentee students and on the overall economy. Absenteeism leads to kids not doing well in school, which discourages them and causes many to drop out before being graduated from high school. Most of these end up in dead-end, low-income jobs.”

Well, that does not bode well for future solid American citizens. So, one must ask, why now? There are no mandatory closures. Today’s public schools are mostly woke, hand out hugs and participation trophies, and coddle their charges. But instead of heading to school to be glorified during education, students are allowed to stay home for mental health days, and no one blinks an eye.

Is basement dwelling a goal?

“We simply cannot accept chronic absenteeism as the new normal,” White House Domestic Policy Council Director Neera Tande said at a recent event. “Students have to be present if they are to learn.”

Absenteeism Is a Layered Problem

This new rise in skipping school doesn’t have just one cause, though. That’s what another detailed study from the Times Union came up with as well after a deep dive into 17 school districts in the Empire State. After interviewing school administrators and teachers, the publication relayed the following:

“The confluence of being allowed in the past to attend classes from home, the ability to play online games together from separate homes, and the addictive nature of social media and its impact on student sleep appear to be playing a role in the increase, according to various school officials. Parental struggles with getting middle and high schoolers to attend can bleed into the rest of the household, causing younger siblings to also remain home.”

Unfortunately, bad habits allowed during the pandemic – staying home and not being accountable – have become the norm. The study also showed that a small percentage of children don’t show up at all: A growing group of (303 students) out of the 17 districts missed 100 days or more in one school year.

Antonette Bowman, a former teacher who writes the “Raising Americans” Substack, believes that fear is also a driving factor for parents who keep kids at home:

“While students skipping school is nothing new, COVID-19 and problems arising from pandemic learning, cultural polarization, and school shootings have likely exacerbated the truancy crisis. Those dynamics have stoked fears and distrust, weakening the cornerstone ties between homes and schools, and undermining the willingness of students to attend school and the motivation of parents to send them there.”

Another factor, albeit a small one, is teacher absenteeism. Interruption in daily classroom learning not only sets students back but also has another domino effect as well: Other instructors in the same school are calling off. Maybe teachers embracing ditch day has to do with their mental health days after trying to instruct through COVID.

Or they see the once-invisible writing on the wall. School districts nationwide are running out of those federal COVID handouts. That coupled with ridiculously high inflationary costs, and perhaps more than a few poor spending decisions, have administrators laying off teachers. And some parents reveled in homeschooling and praising the fortunes of COVID in allowing them to get far away from the crazy PTA and school board meetings and being labeled a domestic terrorist by Joe Biden’s FBI.

All of these factors have affected the decline in student attendance in school. Now it’s time to do the heavy lifting and get America’s kids back on track.

Read More From Sarah Cowgill

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