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Lt. Gov. Hosemann eyeing plans to tackle chronic absenteeism next session

As part of his agenda to improve education outcomes in Mississippi, Republican Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann is planning to propose several policy measures to reduce the state’s chronic absenteeism rates next legislative session.

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. According to the Mississippi Department of Education, the state’s chronic absenteeism rate for the 2022-23 school year was 23.9%, down from 28% in 2021-22.

However, while the rate has trended downward since the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still more than 10% higher than the state’s 13% rate during the 2018-19 school year.

“If students are not in the classroom, they are not learning,” Hosemann said. “We need to drill down into this data and see where our biggest opportunities for driving up the rate are, particularly regarding unexcused absences.”

Some of the lieutenant governor’s solutions to combat chronic absenteeism include:

Restricting the use of cell phones in public schools — According to Hosemann, this has been shown in recent years to severely impact student mental health, particularly during classroom instruction. Some other states and school districts in Mississippi have already implemented policies banning or restricting the use of cell phones in schools. Moving school attendance officers from the Mississippi Department of Education to district-level supervision — Hosemann believes this will encourage better personal relationships between the district, officers, students, and the greater community. Increasing school attendance officer salaries – School attendance officers currently start at $24,528.29 in Mississippi. Encouraging low-performing schools, which often have high chronic absenteeism rates, to consider moving to a modified calendar — Hosemann has beaten the drum for a modified calendar for quite some time now. A modified calendar is said to more evenly disperse school days throughout the year, provide additional short breaks during the school year, and shorten the summer when students often experience learning loss.

In the early fall when the school year resumes, Hosemann plans to visit education facilities in different regions of the state which have lower and higher chronic

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