Lawmaker questions mayor’s school attendance incentive

May 18, 2016

Not everyone agrees that giving out iPads and gift cards to encourage Buffalo Public School students to attend school is a good idea.

Mayor Byron Brown proposed an additional $60,000 in his budget plan as incentive to improve the city's dismal absenteeism rates. Brown defended the plan to reporters Tuesday from his City Hall office. 

Buffalo Public School students in a city classroom.
Credit WBFO News file photo

"That’s a $60,000 item in the budget. I don’t think it’s a back breaker by any stretch of the imagine," said Brown.

Brown explained the move would provide an incentive to about 200 city school children.

"There are many children that attend school in the district that are living in poverty. This was designed to encourage them to continue good attendance. Those who have good attendance those who have greatest improvement in attendance," said Brown.

"I think it is a good intention, but I think we need to know a little bit more about how it would be actually played out  because if a student is still missing 18 or more days, they’re not getting a gift card for me, that’s for sure," said Lovejoy District Council Member Rich Fontana.

Fontana tells WBFO News the incentive would be unfair to city students who consistently attend schools.

"In the Buffalo Public School system, we have 14,000 out of 34,000 kids who don’t go to school 18 days or more,” stated Fontana.

Fontana tells WBFO News he would prefer to use the funding to hire truancy offices that would monitor a student’s absence.

“I would rather put it in for a truancy officer,” said Fontana.  The University District has a big problem with students during the day cutting class and not being there.”

Brown also noted the incentive would provide some students living in poverty with digital connectivity.

“[They] probably don’t have access to computers in the home. There is a digital divide there and that’s one of the reasons we are providing a tablet as an incentive," said the mayor.