School attendance policies: local control strikes again

South Dakotans have a particular objection to people telling them what to do. I quick search of the Argus Leader archives shows “local control” turned up in a variety of story topics:

- school consolidation

- merit pay for teachers

- graduation ceremony attire

- whether students should pay to watch high school sports

- wind development

- city sales taxes

- texting while driving

- where cities can place video lottery terminals

Gov. Daugaard even cited “local control” as an excuse for cutting state funding for education last year. He said if school districts want more money, they can raise local property taxes.

But as Bill Janklow taught us, sometimes people need to be told what to do. Consider the state’s new plan for school accountability, which would require every elementary and middle school to report its attendance rate to the state each year.

Attendance would be worth 20 percent of the School Performance Index, which determines which schools get intervention from the state.

The trouble is, attendance policies differ widely throughout the state. A student arriving 15 minutes late to his first class of the day might be on time in one school, tardy in another and absent in a third.

Education Secretary Melody Schopp said Monday that although the myriad policies will make reporting inconsistent, she has no plan to change that. A recent work group looked at standardizing the policies, she said, but “there was a lot of push back” from school officials concerned about local control.

“It is somewhat problematic,” Schopp said.

Sounds like it.