BUFFALO, NY - The Buffalo Schools have launched a new program to help boost attendance. Chronically absent students have been a big problem for the district for years.
With help from city taxpayers, the district is offering a new incentive program, to get kids in the classroom.
The Buffalo Schools attendance incentive program began last month. This is how it works -- the more students go to school, the more points they earn; the more points they earn the more entries they'll have in lotteries throughout the semester. For example, elementary students who attend school 95 percent of the time get one entry.
But, elementary students who attend school 100 percent of the time get seven entries. There will be four lotteries by the end of the semester and the winners get prizes.
Among many options, Pre-K to fourth graders for good attendance could get a Tops gift card, they could also get a Visa or Toys R Us gift card, even tickets to the zoo. If you're a fifth to an eight grader you could end up getting movie tickets a Kindle Fire or a PS4. Ninth to twelfth graders could win Darien Lake summer passes, an Xbox One or laptops.
How is the district paying for the prizes? Say Yes, a local education initiative says the district is using $30,000 from Mayor Brown's budget.
REPORTER: Many people believe that school is something that you're supposed to do. Why is Buffalo doing this?
"50 percent of the young folks in our schools are growing up in poverty, that means lack of access to foods, lack of access to quality homes, when those are the things you worry about on a day-to-day basis, you're math homework or going to school on a day-to-day basis don't become the most important items," said Say Yes executive director David Rust.
REPORTER: Are there any checks and balance to make sure that the kids who are taking advantage of this particular program or being rewarded that they're actually doing well in school or just showing up?
"They're learning a lot and gaining a lot by being there every single day, this is an example of trying to bring equity to a challenge that exists in every city in the country," Rust said.
The program will need more funding to go beyond this school year, no word if in fact that will happen.