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Panel Considers Changes To Florida's School Attendance Policies

Brian Kane
A school attendance board in the school replica at Bunratty Castle

A Florida House committee may consider changes to the state’s school attendance policies during the upcoming legislative session and lawmakers are considering the impact of chronic absenteeism on student learning and what to do about it.

The state marks a student chronically absent when he or she misses more than 20 days of school in a year. Kindergarteners and first graders are most at-risk for chronic absenteeism. Last year, more than 20-percent of those students were considered chronically absent and lawmakers like the House Education Committee Chairwoman,want to know how parents can let that happen.

“I have a hard not saying it’s the parents’ responsibility in grades kindergarten, first and second...these early grades, it’s astounding to me these numbers are so high," said Republican Representative Marlene O'Toole.

O’Toole says it’s been a while since the state reviewed school attendance policies, and that could mean changes are coming during the session. Florida is one of only a handful of states that track student attendance. Studies have shown students who show up for school regularly are better prepared academically than those who don’t.