California attorney general promotes bills to reduce truancy

California's attorney general is proposing several bills to track student truancy in hopes of increasing the graduation rate.
March 10, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
California Attorney General Kamala Harris is looking to increase the state's graduation rate. She says it starts with getting elementary students to show up to class, but she says the data on that doesn't show the whole picture.

During the school year, kids should be in classrooms, learning. But even at the elementary level, school officials say children are skipping class.

"Maybe, 'oh you're in first grade, attendance is not that important.' So, much of elementary truancy we're working with parents to say here's why it's really important," said Ambra Dorsey with Fresno Unified School District's Prevention and Intervention.

In California, truancy starts with three unexcused absences. Dorsey says for the past two years, their truancy rate has hovered at 50 percent

"It is significant, and I think we see statewide that there's been districts that have seen an increase," said Dorsey.

Surrounded by education leaders on Monday, State Attorney General Kamala Harris not only pointed to truancy harming the future of the student, but she says it harms California schools as well.

"The fact is, these school districts in California last year alone left on the table $1.4 billion," said Harris.

She wants better information to dissect the problem, proposing a series of bills that would track chronic truancy. It would also require every school district to create a school attendance review board. Fresno Unified has one, but it is not mandatory for school districts to have the boards. The attorney general also wants to see more data on cases where parents are charged for their kids missing so many days of school.

Overall, Dorsey says it won't make kids go to class, but she believes it will help the problem

"We don't have anything to solve the problem, but I think it will shed light and begin more conversations," she said.


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