Mississippi News

Auditor releases report on chronic absenteeism

Credit: Mississippi State Auditor Shad White 

Jul 8, 2024- Mississippi’s K-12 chronic absenteeism rate has surged—and at a much faster rate than her border states—according to a new report released today by State Auditor Shad White.

“Mississippi’s K-12 absenteeism problem is a massive cost for taxpayers, as our report lays out,” said White. “Part of my job is telling taxpayers what is driving the biggest costs in government, and in coming years, our absenteeism rate is statistically likely to lead to more drop-outs, more incarcerations, more dependence on social services, and a big bill for Mississippi taxpayers.”

Chronic absenteeism in K-12 schools has skyrocketed across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Mississippi has been hit particularly hard. In 2019, Mississippi compared favorably to its border states with a 14 percent chronic absentee rate. But by 2023, Mississippi outpaced its border states with a 24.7 percent chronic absentee rate, a 76.4 percent increase.

A review of academic literature shows students who are chronically absent have an increased chance of dropping out of school, which leads to a higher likelihood of getting arrested or relying on social services later in life. Analysts estimate that the number of students who were chronically absent before dropping out of school in AY 2023 alone will cost the Mississippi economy $550 million over time.

The report also identifies several recommendations for the legislature to consider. For instance, legislators could:

  • alter Mississippi’s School Accountability Ratings to include attendance
  • pass laws that link driver’s license privileges to school attendance
  • reorganize and hire more school attendance officers

“Kids need to be in school,” said White. “We pump a ton of taxpayer money into our K-12 school system, but it does no good if the students’ tails are not in the seats. Now is the time to address this before the problem gets worse.”

The full report can be found under the “Reports” tab on the Auditor’s website and searching “absenteeism.”

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