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State auditor releases report on effects of chronic absenteeism in Mississippi

Shad White
Photo courtesy of the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor

Following Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announcing plans to tackle chronic absenteeism next legislative session, State Auditor Shad White has released a report on the impact children missing school for long periods of time has on the state.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 18 days of the school year, or 10%, for any reason including excused absences, unexcused absences, and suspensions in K-12 schools. It has skyrocketed across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the state auditor, in 2019, Mississippi compared favorably to its border states with a 14% chronic absentee rate. However, by 2023, Mississippi outpaced its border states with a 24.7% chronic absentee rate — a drastic increase.

White said students who are chronically absent have an increased chance of dropping out of school, which he contends leads to a higher likelihood of getting arrested or relying on social services later in life. Analysts estimate that the number of students who were chronically absent before dropping out of school in academic year 2023 alone will cost the Mississippi economy $550 million over time.

As Hosemann offered some of his proposals to keep children in the classroom, White also weighed in on measures the legislature can take to combat the state’s high chronic absenteeism rate.

  • Alter Mississippi’s School Accountability Ratings to include attendance
  • Pass laws that link driver’s license privileges to school attendance
  • Reorganize and hire more school attendance officers

“Kids need to be in school,” White said. “We pump a ton of taxpayer money into our K-12 school system, but it does no good if the students’ tails are not in the seats. Now is the time to address this before the problem gets worse.”

The state auditor’s full report can be found here.

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