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School Policies and the High Cost of Healthcare

Written by Nickel - 13 Comments

This is a bit of a rant, so please bear with me… :-)

As you’re likely aware, we have four school-aged kids. As such, it’s not uncommon to have one virus or another making its way through our house. And sometimes this results in having sick kids who need to stay home from school.

In an effort to combat truancy, our district has adopted rather strict attendance policies. The finer details of it escape me, but the short version is that we’re allowed a rather limited number of “parental excuses” for an absence to be considered excused.

Moreover, if you exceed a certain (again, rather limited) number of excused absences, you can expect to be hearing from the school district. On the flip side, the policy regarding absences excused by a doctor is much more lax.

What this creates is a situation in which parents feel obligated to take their kids to the doctor for minor ailments that would otherwise be treated with a day of rest.

In other words, the school district is unintentionally bullying parents into unnecessary visits to the doctor’s office. Either that, or they send their sick kids to school where others get infected, which just compounds the problem.

And, of course, doctor’s offices are full of sick people so going there when you don’t need to simply increases your chances of picking up an additional bug. Here again, this just compounds the problem.

While your copay might not be terribly high, your insurance is picking up the tab. And the more that insurance companies have to pay out, the higher their rates go in the future.

I’m really not sure of the solution, as I’m sure there are parents out there who would abuse a more lax policy in the name of visiting Disney World during non-peak times (or whatever). But still… Surely there must be a better way.

Obviously, we have much bigger fish to fry when it comes to the high cost of health insurance, but these sorts of policy decisions aren’t helping the situation.

End of rant. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Published on January 30th, 2013
Modified on February 4th, 2013 - 13 Comments
Filed under: Insurance

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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13 Responses to “School Policies and the High Cost of Healthcare”

  1. 1
    Greg Says:

    “you can expect to be hearing from the school district”

    Is this actually a big deal, or is this just a scare tactic?

  2. 2
    lostAnnfound Says:

    Some parents may consider sending their child to school and telling the child to go see the school nurse and tell her that he/she is sick. The nurse would then have to call the parent and then the child can be “dismissed from clinic” which in our area is considered an “excused absence.”

  3. 3
    Nickel Says:

    Greg: It depends. I suspect that the initial contact is mostly a scare tactic, though it gets more serious (or at least more inconvenient) beyond that point.

    lostAnnfound: Clever, but still rather inefficient.

  4. 4
    jim Says:

    So whats the consequence if the child exceeds the allowed number of sick days? Whats the allowed number of sick days? Whats the *right* number? Why?

    The school has to set a policy that allows for sick days but will keep people from abusing sick days. They have to find a balance between too many / too few sick days allowed without doctor notes.

    I can see your point and the frustration here. I think you’ve got other parents to blame for this. The parents who go to Disney or let their kids stay home whenever they want and claim sick days.

  5. 5
    Christian L. Says:

    Yikes, the school district didn’t make this convenient at all. Since I’m not a parent, I really don’t know what to suggest other than keep your child safe (that goes without saying).

    I’m glad this policy didn’t apply to my high school during my senior year. Ma made a lot of phone calls for me when I had senioritis.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  6. 6
    BG Says:

    Our district is the same way. Just toss the notices in the trash and not worry about it. As far as I’m concerned, if the parent knows the kid is at home sick, the school should accept that. Them demanding a doctors note is the same as calling you a liar.

  7. 7
    Sheila Waddell Says:

    Our schools have the same policy, but goes to the point of threatening to fail children who go beyond their alloted absences (5 days per year).

    I have always felt that this type policy is too broad. The schools should address the problem parents and not hold the rest of us hostage.

    I’m tired of paying $200 to be told that my child has a cold (knew that already), just so her absence won’t be held against her grade.

  8. 8
    the other jim Says:

    Are you frickin serious? WOW – the nanny state continues to grow! eff ‘em. YOU are the parent and YOU are the one who knows what is best for your child. How DARE they impose their nazi scheme of things on your kids! eff ‘em.

  9. 9
    Lysle Says:

    The schools get paid by the federal government based on attendance. The more butts-in-seats, the more they get paid. That’s why they’re being so strict about it.

  10. 10
    RS Says:

    In Australia, I found out that adults are required to get doctors notes when they are home from work sick… All employers require it! I was horrified. I get migraines.. it would be dangerous for me to attempt to get to a dr with a migraine… totally ridiculous imo.

    Policies such as this regarding students’ time away from school make me feel super lucky that I grew up when I did. My parents definitely took us out of school for off-peak Disney world. They were honest with the elementary school about it and took our homework & class material with us and we had tests etc when we got back.
    We did this several times, in Dec because we had family that lived overseas. When you’re flying for ~20 hours, it doesn’t make sense to only go there for the ~1wk break, so we’d take a couple weeks off school. Again, my parents always coordinated w/ our schools to make sure we had everything possible to keep up with our classes. We gave mini presentations on where we had been and what we saw.. they were great experiences for us as kids – especially since my grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc all lived overseas. We had no family other than the 4 of us in the US.
    Granted, my parents did this when we were in elementary school and it was easy enough for them to teach us… it tapered off when we were in middle and high school.
    I just don’t see why it should be an issue if parents are in the know and are active in their kids’ education.
    I don’t remember it being much of an ordeal for my parents to take us out of school for this stuff.. but I was young so maybe I didn’t notice. But considering we did it at least 4 times, it couldn’t have been that much of an ordeal.

    I sympathize. I keep hearing about stringent school policies and it makes me feel incredibly lucky that I grew up where/when I did.. It just feels like the state/city/county is taking the parenting out of parents hands with policies such as these!
    Don’t even get me started on the mandatory HPV vaccination for 11 yr old girls.. communicable disease BS…

  11. 11
    Heather Says:

    If the school was not held accountable for attendance, it would not trickle down to you via these sorts of policies. You can blame the school, but ultimately, your state has an attendance policy that affects all districts in the state. If it is like ours, it very drastically affects funding. And attendance indirectly affects test scores. (And if too many kids are absent on the day of The Test, the school automatically fails, even if every kid who takes it passes with flying colors.)

  12. 12
    getagrip Says:

    From a website “Indiana State Law and federal legislation, No Child Left Behind, have set a 95% benchmark for a schools minimum attendance rate. Attendance rate is one of the factors that is considered when public schools are placed in performance categories and compared to other public schools. In short, (School name removed by me) can perform well in academic terms but be placed in a lower achievement category due to insufficient attendance and graduation rate. Indiana attendance law mandates that every student enrolled must be in attendance unless he/she is ill or there is a death in the immediate family.”

    When they talk performance categories and rates, they are talking funding. So the bottom line is that the Government, through No child left behind, has forced state schools to become document and proof heavy for absences because the federal government will potentially, and likely adversely, mess with the money the state receives based on overall attendance, so the state messes with the money the local school district receives, so the local schools create and enforce policies to discourage absences not because they want to abuse individual parents and kids, but because they have to minimize it overall to keep their funding up.

    The problem also involves the legislation of what constitutes an excused absence. Because this involves money, and given most states have been struggling over the last four years, state legislatures pass more stringent requirements with regards to this leaving school districts little choice but to implement more and more restrictive policies and place more resources into tracking tardiness. Another example of a good idea (hey, let’s try and reduce absenteeism because the kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school) being turned sour by poor implementation.

  13. 13
    BG Says:

    “…through No child left behind…”

    Thank you Mr. President Bush.

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