Braun bill to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools passes Senate

OLYMPIA…A bill aiming to reduce chronic student absenteeism Washington’s K-12 public schools passed unanimously in the Washington State Senate Tuesday. Senate bill 5850 is sponsored by Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia.

According to the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), students who miss even two days per month are more likely to read at lower than their grade level and more likely not to graduate on time. A student is considered “chronically absent” if they miss 10% or more of their school days for any reason.

“Students who are struggling to perform academically at grade level are at risk of falling so far behind their class that they are at risk of not graduating with their peers, or even at all,” said Braun.

SB 5850 would create a pilot program to provide support for students in nine educational service districts (ESDs) who are, or at risk of becoming, chronically absent. The districts would be required to develop and maintain the capacity to offer training and coaching for educators and other school district staff to identify and locate students who are chronically absent and connect them with necessary supports, subject to available funding.

“In spite of the many billions of dollars Washington invests in basic education for K-12, some students are slipping through the cracks as they deal with family issues, substance-abuse disorder, or mental-health issues. We need to be more proactive and help them succeed by making sure they are in class more often.”

SB 5850 would also direct OSPI to establish a grant program for community-based organizations and tribes to support students who are chronically absent. OSPI would also be required to allocate funding to the school districts and schools to help eliminate barriers to graduation, such as being severely deficient in academic credits.

SB 5850 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.