LOS ANGELES – Today, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued her third annual report on elementary school truancy and chronic absenteeism in California, In School + On Track 2015. The report finds that, compared to last year, California still faces a crisis in school attendance: 230,000 California elementary school students are chronically absent – missing more than 10% of the school year – and more than 1 in 5 are truant, having three or more unexcused absences.
The report also outlines significant progress made in the past year in increasing awareness of the importance of attendance within school districts, tracking attendance year over year, and rethinking discipline policies that remove students from the classroom.
In response, a group of diverse elected officials and advocates from across California released the following statements in support.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson:
“You can have the best facilities, the best teachers, and the best curriculum in the world, but none of that matters if students are not in school. That’s why the California Department of Education has put so much effort into increasing school attendance. I welcome Attorney General Kamala Harris’s interest and work on this issue. Together we can make great progress in keeping students in school.”
California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana S. Dooley:
“This report underscores the positive impact that school attendance has on public health, public safety and the long-term health of our state. We must continue to work towards an environment where all California children have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
David Rattray, Executive Vice President, Education & Workforce Development, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce:
“The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce shares Harris’ concerns about chronic absenteeism and supports her efforts through our partnerships, such as The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We have long been concerned about the achievement gap with vulnerable students, and her report shows that more than 75 percent of students who are chronically absent are low-income. We believe the talent pool of the future is best served when young people are present and engaged in school. That’s why we support linked learning, connecting students with future careers and real-world challenges, and we know this will be a step towards resolving this crisis.”
Ted Lempert, President, Children Now:
“We commend Attorney General Kamala Harris for her leadership and efforts to highlight the importance of chronic absence and truancy in putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. In School + On Track 2015 highlights persistent disparities and provides the most comprehensive analysis available in California, since the statewide data system doesn’t capture attendance data. It highlights the progress some districts are making, and it’s an important reminder that attendance matters and we need all parents and stakeholders to work together to make sure all children are in school and on track to succeed.”
Hedy Chang, Director, Attendance Works:
“The Attorney General’s Office has delivered an impressive report that not only exposes the scope of absenteeism in California but reveals the progress that districts are making toward addressing this problem. It demonstrates the power of an attorney general to call for monitoring chronic absence and using it as a trigger for prevention and early intervention long before resorting to legal action.”
Serena Clayton, Ph.D., Executive Director, The California School-Based Health Alliance:
“The California School-Based Health Alliance is proud to have contributed to this important report and applauds the Attorney General for calling attention to this issue. School-based health providers across the state have firsthand experience with both the causes and consequences of chronic absence. Economic inequities prevent many children from getting the health, mental health, and dental care they need, which leads to untreated health problems that keep kids out of class. School-based health centers are an important part of a comprehensive solution to improving attendance, advancing equity, and closing the achievement gap.”
Brian Lee, California State Director, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids:
“On behalf of over 400 police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and victims of crime, we commend the Attorney General for continuing to highlight the need to keep kids in school and learning. Reducing chronic absence, truancy, and suspensions will go a long way towards keeping kids off the streets, out of trouble and on track to success; it will also enhance the safety of our communities and neighborhoods today, tomorrow, and in the long run.”
Jennifer Peck, Executive Director, Partnership for Children & Youth:
“The Partnership for Children & Youth commends Attorney General Kamala Harris’ leadership in shining a light on the role that chronic absence and attendance play in our education system, and how significantly they contribute to the achievement and opportunity gaps. This new report is a crucial step in raising awareness about the challenge, and highlights solutions we must all work towards. We are excited to work with the Attorney General and other partners to make sure we are doing more to support young people with after school and summer program opportunities and to spread the growth of Community Schools so that more kids are getting the support they need to show up at school, ready to learn, every day.”
The entire report is available at www.oag.ca.gov/truancy/2015.