In the Lansing School District, the average teacher was absent from the classroom for 17.6 days — or three and a half weeks — during the 2010-11 school year, according to the district’s documents. By comparison, a Lansing School District student under the age of 16 could face legal action by the district if he or she accumulates 10 absences.
The district had a total of 16,932.25 absences by 962 teachers, according to information received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request put in by Michigan Capitol Confidential. The absences include illness, military leave, conferences, maternity leave and other approved time off.
There were 377 teachers (39 percent of the staff) absent at least 17 days. Four teachers missed 100 days or more.
Because the district is in full session from only September through June, this means that teachers were absent about 10 percent of the 170 to 172 full days they were contractually scheduled in 2010-11. The teachers’ union contract allows up to 10 days a school year of “compensable leave,” and two personal days a year. But the union contract allows unlimited accumulation of unused “compensable leave days” in future years.
If the 16,932.25 absent days from just last year were applied to the career of a single instructor, that teacher would have missed more than 98 years of class time.
Lansing School District administrators and a Michigan Education Association official who represents the union in the school district didn’t return emails seeking comment.
Michigan Capitol Confidential has requested documentation on teachers’ absences from several school districts and has reviewed two districts’ responses. Grand Rapids teachers were absent on average 14.2 days in 2010-11.
Grand Rapids pays substitute teachers $85 to $97 per day. Lansing pays $75 a day for a substitute teacher for the first 15 days. That rate goes up to $90 if the substitute works 16 to 50 days and then jumps to $150 a day if the substitute works longer than 50 days.
Students with that type of attendance record in Lansing would have their parents notified and, if it continued, could face legal action by the district. If students accumulate eight days of absences, they can be referred to an “attendance specialist.” If students reach 10 parent-excused absences, they need a signed note from their doctor. If the attendance “problem” is not corrected, the district could take legal action against the student and parent, according to the district code of conduct for students.
The teachers’ union contract reads: “Attendance is a very important part of the employee job performance at the Lansing School District. Regular attendance and punctuality are critical elements in our efforts to attain high levels of productivity, student achievement, adequate yearly progress (AYP), continuity of instruction, and reduction of substitute costs.”
If teachers have been absent five or fewer days in a specific school and have accumulated 105 or more compensable leave days, they have to sell back five of those days per year for $75 per day.