For each of her three children, Stacey Wright could earn $300 if she regularly attends PTO meetings and if her children meet attendance and behavior criteria. That's $900 cash by the time school lets out for the winter break.
Wright is enrolled in a program, funded by Urban Strategies. The non-profit partners with McCormack Baron Ragan Management, a development group that specializes in mixed income housing. The group manages three properties near Jefferson Elementary. This summer, Urban Strategies set aside funding to encourage new enrollment at the school - located just north of downtown St. Louis.
You can find the Urban Strategies website here: www.urbanstrategiesinc.org/
Click here to see McCormack Baron Ragan's website: www.mccormackbaron.com/
The organization offers $300 per student to families who enroll in Jefferson Elementary for the first time this semester. Each student must attend 95 percent of school days, can not have any in school suspension punishments, and parents must attend at least three PTO meetings this fall.
Urban Strategies developed a relationship with Jefferson Elementary in 1998 when the organization raised funds for school renovations . This is the first time Urban Strategies is attempting to implement a cash incentive program for enrollment and attendance. If the program works to improve attendance, the group says it may consider expanding to program to Dunbar Elementary.
Today, 247 students are enrolled in Jefferson Elementary. That number is up from 235 this time last year. However, enrollment is still much lower than it was a few years ago. More than 400 students attended classes at Jefferson Elementary in 2005-2006.
"Attendance is big. I mean, the district receives funds partially due to attendance so it's big and kids can't learn if they're not at school," said Principal Nathalie Means.
So far, 18 families (24 students) have signed up for the cash incentive program.
Asked whether cash incentives are an appropriate tool to boost attendance, Means said, "I think people do what they are supposed to do and when you have the opportunity to reward those for doing what they're supposed to do, I think its a good idea. I think adults and children, alike, like to do a good job and like to be recognized for doing a good job."
"I love the school, the teachers are very nice, very helpful, thoughtful. You can sit down and talk to them about your problems or your issues, i like it. It's not all about the money," said Wright.