SUPTS. MEMO. NO. 123
June 28, 1996
||William C. Bosher, Jr.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
||Changes to the Compulsory School Attendance (Learnfare)
provisions of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children
Virginia's welfare reform initiative includes a component known as "Learnfare" -- tying welfare payments to the school attendance of school age children (under the age of 18) in the assistance unit. Although in operation since July 1, 1995, the Board of Social Services has made significant revisions in the program, in response to changes in compulsory school attendance requirements made by the 1996 Virginia General Assembly. Mr. Clarence H. Carter, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, recently sent a Memorandum to Local School Division Superintendents regarding revised Compulsory Attendance Policy and Procedure (Learnfare) of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program, dated June 19, 1996. These revisions, effective July 1, 1996, reflect changes made to the compulsory school attendance requirements (22.1-254 et seq. of the Code of Virginia). House Bill 375 (Delegate Cantor, Henrico) and Senate Bill 324 (Senator Houck, 17th District) include the following: Local school boards shall provide notice to parents or guardians regarding of compulsory school attendance requirements and enforcement procedures. The number of unexplained absences that trigger intervention was changed from five consecutive days absent to three consecutive school days absent or five school days absent per month or seven school days absent per calendar quarter. The role of the attendance officer was clarified related to (1) checking school census and other reports to prepare a list of students not enrolled and (2) filing a complaint before the juvenile and domestic relations district court. The penalty for noncompliance with compulsory school attendance requirements was increased. Supts. Memo No. 123 June 28, 1996 Page 2 [Copies of both bills will be included in the Education Bills Passed and Joint Resolutions Agreed to by the 1996 General Assembly, which the Department of Education will distribute via Superintendent's Memorandum dated June 28, 1996.] As a result of these policy changes, school personnel will no longer have to track absences for students who are AFDC recipients using separate benchmarks. This will facilitate communication between local school divisions and local social services agencies for students who are AFDC recipients and have attendance problems. Together, the local agencies can identify the most appropriate intervention for the student. The combined efforts should reduce student truancy. The Department of Social Services has asked local social services directors to work with local school division staff to review the new Learnfare policies and procedures. Localities will have the opportunity to review and revise local policies and procedures regarding identification of students who are AFDC recipients and procedures for notifying the local department of social services of absences. The local social service director is also requested to provide the name of a school contact to the state Department of Social Services by July 31, 1996. Ms. Carolyn Ellis, AFDC Program Specialist at the Department of Social Services is available to respond to specific questions at (804) 692-1738. The General Assembly also provided financial resources to assist local school divisions with truancy reduction programs. The Department of Education recently sent Funding Applications for Truancy Reduction Initiatives and Safe Schools to eligible school divisions. Proposals should address linkages with the local department of social services for students who receive AFDC. Questions regarding funding applications can be directed to Ms. Marsha Hubbard, Specialist, School Safety at (804) 225-2829. Dr. Lissa Power-deFur (804) 225-2818 and Mr. Charles Finley (804) 225-2747, in the Division of Policy and Public Affairs at the Department of Education are available to answer questions regarding the 1996 legislation or compulsory attendance. WCBjr/lpdf