Lt. Gov. Hosemann to focus on chronic public school absenteeism

Published 2:00 pm Monday, July 8, 2024

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann is proposing several policy measures in the 2025 Legislative Session to tackle Mississippi’s high chronic absenteeism rate in public schools across the state. 

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 18 days of the school year, or 10 percent, for any reason including excused absences, unexcused absences, and suspensions. Mississippi’s chronic absenteeism rate for the 2022-23 school year was 23.9 percent. While the rate has begun to trend down since the pandemic, and is lower than some other states, it is still more than 10 percentage points above the state’s 13 percent rate during the 2018-2019 school year.

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

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Among other solutions, Hosemann said he is interested in exploring:

• Restricting the use of cellphones in public schools, which has been shown in recent years to severely impact student mental health, particularly during classroom instruction;

• Moving school attendance officers from the Mississippi Department of Education to district-level supervision to encourage better personal relationships between the district, officers, students, and the wider community;

• Increasing school attendance officer salaries. School attendance officers start at $24,528.29 in Mississippi; and

• Encouraging low-performing schools to consider moving to a modified calendar. 

In the early fall when school resumes, Hosemann plans to visit schools in different regions of the state which have lower and higher chronic absenteeism rates to hear about challenges and other possible solutions.

 to the problem. Hosemann has also asked the K-12 and Postsecondary Mental Health Task Force, created by Senate Bill 2727, to examine this issue in the context of child and adolescent mental health and its impact on school attendance and academic performance.