Cutting Class

"You can't put a dollar value...on keeping our regular teachers in the classroom," said Dallas school board President Ken Zornes in a Dallas Morning News story about efforts to reduce growing absenteeism among teachers.

Laugh, cry or cuss--what exactly are we supposed to do when we're told that teachers in the Dallas Independent School District have a habit of cutting classes, particularly on Fridays and in the last month of school? The story suggested, though it didn't say flat out, that some of those absences weren't proper. To reduce the district's growing bill for substitute teachers, administrators are considering offering "incentive pay" for teachers who don't use all their leave days.

Makes sense, Buzz supposes. Here in the private sector, we're already given money for showing up when we're supposed to be at work.

It's called a paycheck.

At the Dallas Observer, we have another program for encouraging attendance; you probably have something similar at your job, assuming you're not a teacher. It works like this: Miss enough work without a doctor's note or extend a few too many weekends, and your butt will be fired. Call it "disincentive no-pay."

(Incidentally, Mr. Prez Zornes, you actually can put a dollar value on keeping teachers in the classroom. If you don't believe us, ask the tax assessor.)

Of course, Buzz is just being a curmudgeon, grossly oversimplifying complex educational issues. What, tie compensation to attendance or, God forbid, performance? Buzz has either turned Republican, or we just don't understand. Probably the latter, but don't blame us. We attended public schools.

So we're too dim to grasp why DISD isn't considering reducing the number of paid leave days rather than paying teachers extra for showing up regularly. The former is a simpleminded private-sector solution, and we need to be more creative. As usual, Buzz has a plan: Expand the reach of Dallas' two new truancy courts. Since it turns out that many of the students summoned before the courts recently didn't show up (heh-heh), the judges should have plenty of time to handle teachers suffering cases of Friday flu or senioritis.

When Buzz was in school, kids who cut could usually be found behind the gym getting high before heading out to shoplift. We're not sure where a constable could go to find ditching teachers in 2002, but behind the gym might be a good place to start.

If that doesn't work, we can name several strip clubs that offer cheap lunches.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams