Friday, April 1, 2011

SB 497

And, once again, people who are not currently educators and may not have ever been educators are passing bills that deeply affect educators and students.  SB 497 is supposed to "make it easier for students to be excused from school." Of course, that's not really what it does for everyone.  I've received a lot of emails about this and read responses from senators that never really answer the main questions.  Here is a summary of the bill:

SB497  SUMMARY
The measure defines "valid excuse" for any absence from school due to the following:
     1.  medical treatment substantiated by a physician's written statement within five school days of the absence
     2.  school approved activity
     3.  death of a family member
     4.  observance of a nationally recognized religious holiday or activity
     5.  participation in extracurricular activities approved by principal.  Students must be in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade and have a 3.25 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.
     6.  any other reason deemed appropriate by local school district

For school organizations, this does not help.  Students are allowed 10 absences already and validating our other absences with our students for things like contests, competitions, etc. has never been a problem.  They are now changing the rules.  

The 10 days that students are allowed by default to miss now, with this bill, include and mix absences for illness, family death, AND extracurricular activities, etc.  Those are not to be mixed.  One senator said that currently no student can miss more than 10 days period.  I speak for vocal music and, currently, we are already allowed extra days outside of the 10 given days for state/national 'qualifying' events.  I guess they aren't and haven't ever been aware of that.

Aside from that discrepancy, let's talk about these 'extra' days they will now allow us to have outside of the 10 days.  A freshman cannot receive this new approval for excused days.  How many school organizations have grades 9-12?  I would say most and choir definitely falls under that category.  10-12 graders can only receive this new approval for excused days if their GPA is a 3.25 or above.  Are you kidding??  While a 3.25 is attainable, the fact of the matter is that not all students are straight A students.  Not all students are straight B students.  Some of the best choir students and best members of organizations may not meet this GPA requirement.  Let's say contests and performances are now going to be under these 'extra' days.  Freshmen can't go with us?  Students with lower than a 3.25 can't go with us?  Then we won't be going.  

A resounding theme from the responses of senators is that "we are confused about the bill" and "the language of the bill may difficult to understand."  One, that's rude.  Two, if it is difficult to understand, clear it up.  I have yet to see that.  Three, it's actually not difficult to understand.  It's just not logical.  

Teachers, especially teachers who spend endless hours on extracurricular activities, have enough to be frustrated with and adding one more thing to the plate is not a good idea.  If you're a teacher, educate yourself on this bill as I will definitely continue to do.  Ultimately, it affects the students and right now, I'm not convinced it's in a positive way.

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