Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Joins the Center for American Progress to Discuss Cost of Truancy and Absenteeism

SAN FRANCISCO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today joined the Center for American Progress on a telephone press conference to discuss California’s efforts to combat elementary school truancy and unveil a new report released today by the Center for American Progress, “The High Cost of Truancy.”

“Debates about our nation’s public education system are moot if our children aren’t in class,” said Attorney General Harris. “Truancy is a major problem in California and nationwide, resulting in significant economic loss and increased public safety costs.  This report should serve as a call to action, because every child deserves an equal education.”

Attorney General Harris will release her annual report on California’s elementary school truancy and absenteeism crisis, “In School + On Track,” next month.

The report released today by the Center for American Progress finds that as the U.S. undergoes drastic demographic shifts, our population, schools, and labor force cannot afford the high cost of truancy.  The report identifies how and why students become disconnected from school and who is most at risk of chronic absenteeism, while also outlining the consequences of truancy and identifying promising measures states are taking to tackle truancy.  View the report here:

The report also presents concrete and actionable federal, state, and local policy recommendations to combat truancy, including to:

  • Develop a national definition for truancy, chronic truancy, and chronic absenteeism.
  • Improve data collection for early warning systems.
  • Increase wrap-around services and align them with student needs.
  • Reduce punitive policies.
  • Increase parental involvement and the accessibility and availability of education programs.

In 2013, Attorney General Harris released the first ever report, “In School + On Track,” on the impact of elementary school truancy on our state, including the implications on educational equity, criminal justice, and public safety.

The 2014 report found that a quarter of a million elementary school students in California missed 10% or more of the 2013-2014 school year and almost 90% of the elementary students who are missing over a month of school per year were from low-income families.   More than 1 in 5 African American students were chronically absent, more than double the average for white students, and African American elementary school students were chronically truant at nearly four times the rate of all students.

These racial disparities are particularly troubling in light of the fact that more than half of all babies born in the U.S. today are children of color, and for the first time in history, the majority of the 2014-2015 public school K-12 population nationwide is projected to be students of color.

View the reports here:

As the District Attorney of San Francisco, Attorney General Harris started a citywide truancy initiative in 2006.  Over a two-year period, then-District Attorney Harris’ initiative reduced truancy among elementary students in San Francisco by 23%, according to the San Francisco Unified School District.  The initiative also served as a model for SB 1317 (Leno), which defined “chronic truancy” for the first time under state law and established the initiative’s model of combining meaningful services with smart sanctions in the California Penal Code.  The bill was sponsored by then-District Attorney Harris and was enacted into law in 2010.

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