BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The state superintendent said Alabama is in an “instructional crisis” on Tuesday as more than 5,000 students are unaccounted for in absences and enrollment numbers.
Roughly 5% of those students are kindergarteners. State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said a portion of those students has opted to homeschool, transitioning to the private school system, or have moved. But the majority aren’t receiving any education at all.
“Many of these students are just staying at home,” said Mackey.
With fewer students enrolled, public schools could lose state funding. State-funded schools receive their money based on a formula that takes into account student enrollment. Fewer students mean less funding, which could result in teacher cuts.
“No one wants to see teachers’ jobs cut, no one wants to see crowded classrooms when the pandemic is over, and those students return,” said Mackey.
Mackey said he will work with the legislature to temporarily change the state’s funding formula for K-12 schools. For now, that isn’t the priority.
“But the bigger problem is that instructionally, it can take is 2, maybe 3 years or even more to dig out from under this,” said Mackey.
The Alabama Education Association has also noticed students struggling with the learning curve the pandemic has created.
“We don’t want to see any child get behind, but I do fear the trickle effect will occur when the kids are away from their devices,” said Tracee Binion.
GEAR UP Alabama, a federally funded college prep program, said they have had a difficult time keeping tabs on the students in their program. They’ve even taken to social media to connect with students and offer resources.
“Obviously it’s very concerning if students aren’t showing up to school, that they’re not at least checking in and getting the resources that are made available so that they can continue their education,” said Dr. Samantha Elliot Briggs.
Mackey said his office will release more detailed information on the students that didn’t re-enroll after the Thanksgiving holiday.
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