LA students win cars, iPads for attendance

I had perfect attendance in fourth grade at Ravinia Elementary School in 1961-62. The teacher gave me a plastic trophy — painted gold — that he’d won in a dance contest at the Hotel Fontainebleau in Miami Beach.

Los Angeles public schools gave new cars to two graduating seniors with perfect attendance, reports the Los Angeles Daily News. Five elementary students won iPads.

Of 357 seniors with perfect attendance, Vanessa Umana and Euri Tanaka each won the drawing for an $18,000 Chevrolet Sonic. Clear Channel Media donated the cars and many of the other prizes.

Over the last year, LAUSD has awarded monthly prizes to hundreds of kids who answered “here” every time their teacher took attendance. Rewards donated by local companies included bicycles, gift cards to Subway sandwich shops and guest passes to Knott’s Berry Farm and Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

Six campuses also will receive $3,000 each to spend on attendance programs. (Does a magnet for gifted students need an attendance program?)

Attendance improved during the year-long contest, said Debra Duardo, executive director of Student Health and Human Services. That means fewer kids miss lessons and the district collects more money from the state, an average of $32 per student per day.

Vanessa credits her work ethic to her mother, Minerva, a pharmacy technician, and father, David, a Navy mechanic who served three overseas deployments while she was growing up.

“That shaped me as a person and taught me how to have goals and be independent,” she said. “They always encouraged me to go to school so it would lead me to have a better life.”

Graduating with a GPA of 4.2, Vanessa has been accepted at UC San Diego. She plans to major in biology, with a long-term goal of becoming a doctor.

The grand prize for attending school is an education, not a Subway gift card or a Chevy.  Vanessa knows that. She didn’t need to be bribed to show up. What about kids with less education-minded parents?

I kept my attendance trophy on my dresser. It disappeared when my parents sold the house, when I was in college. I’ve still got the education.

About Joanne


  1. I view these incentives as dangerous. It encourages sick children to go to school. Isn’t California a hotbed of whooping cough already?

    I have an asthmatic son who just has a hard time recovering from colds. He missed 22 days of school this year. He was genuinely sick (plenty of doctor’s notes to prove it!), but did his work and deserves the same recognition as children who don’t happen to have the condition and were ABLE to attend school.

  2. My suburban California school district also awards a car at random. There are attendence, behavior and academic requirements to enter the drawing.

  3. GreenRiver says:

    “The grand prize for attending school is an education…” Thank you for taking a stand again the bribes we give the next generation cause this is what they are going to expect for just having a perfect attendance going to work one day. It’s just wrong.

    You might check into this story cause the mainstream media isn’t & it’s a great human interest story for all of us.

    There is a 65 yr Vietnam veteran walking across America in support of the U.S. Constitution & also a Gulf War I veteran with him.

    True grit by them to risk the dangers of our highways, carrying the American flag with each step they take fm San Diego to D.C. to support the constitution.

    I’m proud that it’s our veterans who are once again defending our way of life & our freedoms so I support them.

    It’s also showing that our senior citizens still have much to offer our society & our ‘daddy’ as an image to those children that don’t have a father in their upbringing.

  4. I have a problem with this kind of bribery, on two levels. One is Elf Mom’s; encouraging sick kids to go to school. That was true when I was in school, when the “prize” was only a certificate, but my neighbors often went to school sick. The other problem is the message; kids are required to be in school. If they need to be bribed like this, they’re likely to be among those who can’t read their diplomas. I’d say forget the bribes, drop the mandatory schooling age to 14 and let the disinterested leave. The government paying for seat time is the problem; if kids had to get a certain (REAL, grade-level) score on the ITBS (or equivalent) in order for the school to be given funding for that kid, the seat-time-equals-education mantra would be invalidated.

    • Florida resident says:

      Dear momof4:
      I agree 100%.

    • BadaBing says:

      I’m with you momof4, but dismantling mandatory seat time is going to reduce ADA, and the teachers’ unions aren’t going to tolerate the consequence of raking in fewer dollars. They’ll have Diane Sawyer doing anecdotal reports about social injustice. It won’t fly.

  5. I’d say forget the bribes, drop the mandatory schooling age to 14 and let the disinterested leave.

    and do what?

    • Gahrie – well; let them land gently in the warm clover scented bed of the social safety net; or get some clues and come back refocused and with motivation.