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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

If schools pay students, will they come?

Learning loss and absenteeism are a crisis, writes Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, a member of Boston's school board, on the Hechinger Report. He proposes paying students 16 and older to attend after-school enrichment programs, extended summer learning and work-study programs.

Schools have trouble hiring enough cafeteria workers. Why not pay students to do the job?

Many young people took on family responsibilities and jobs during the pandemic, he writes. School became a lower priority.

Schools could use federal funds to reconnect with students, create learning opportunities and increase the possibility they'll earn a high school diploma, Cardet-Hernandez writes. Students could be offered jobs at their schools or in city government, such as "lunch prep in a cafeteria or clerical work in an administrative office."

Paying students to participate in enrichment or summer school is a non-starter, I think, but work-study programs could be politically viable and a useful way to get disengaged students to show up. If schools work with private employers, they could offer students an array of entry-level jobs, contingent on them learning academic skills they've missed.

Years ago, California created Electronics Academies for students with poor attendance and poor grades: Those who did well in school were offered interviews with local employers, who offered after school and summer jobs. Students were very motivated to qualify for those interviews. They went on to earn more money than non-participants.

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