Cash for Class – Paying Students to Study

CHELSEA — The high school here will try a new way
this fall to make students show up for school: Pay them.

Under a privately funded program, students will get up to $125 a year for
perfect attendance all year, as long as they graduate. They have the chance
to get up to $500 for a four-year string of zero absences.

Educators across the state praised Chelsea for its boldness, but said they
worry about the message the 1,430-student school is sending by paying students
for something they should do anyway. By law, students must stay in school
until they are 16.

In neighboring Revere, officials considered giving $10 to high school students
to attend Saturday school. But Superintendent Paul Dakin said the recordkeeping
problems and philosophical questions doomed the idea.

Is this an idea worth considering? Although paying
for students to go to school may seem ridiculous and wrong-headed at
glance, on closer examination it can be seen to have numerous social
and economic benefits.

First of all, giving kids a cash bonus for perfect
attendance is hardly rewarding them for something they should do anyway.  All
kids are allowed to miss a certain number of sick days, families take
vacations, etc.  On the other hand, it is hard to justify denying
the bonus to a kid who just get sick through no fault of his or her own.
 So we would argue that it may make sense to straight out pay kids
an hourly wage to go to school.

It is in the interest of our economy to
have educated workers, and keeping more
produce more and better educated workers. Furthermore, Chelsea is one
of the poorest and most minority-heavy (Hispanic, mostly) districts
in the state, and Hispanics have the highest drop-out rate among ethnic
groups – over 50%. The schools lose these kids to the gangs, and in
cases to the necessity of supporting their families and sending money
back to extended family abroad. If paying them would keep them
in school, would that not lead to minority advancement, get more people
off of welfare, keep kids out of gangs, lower the crime rate and improve
the quality of community life?

It would certainly be cost-effective if it keeps
more kids off of the streets, lowers unemployment and the kind of drug
crime related activities kids get involved in when they aren’t in school.
It would give them a sense of self-respect, teach them to manage money,
get them used to the basic economic paradigm which is going to dominate
the rest of their lives, and allow them to be more active participants
in our wonderful consumer paradise. In a way, it is the same argument
as that if favor of allowing colleges to
in big-time
to keep them from turning pro at 18 or 19.

A good example of thinking outside the box…

from the Boston Globe

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