Truancy

California devotes special attention to low-income students with the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) so they have the resources they need to learn. Now the issue is getting the students to go to school.

Truancy is a serious problem in Californiabecause of both what is known and what is unknown.

A recent report by California Attorney General Kamala Harris indicates that chronic truancy is greater among African-Americans and low-income students, representing a major economic lossfor school districts—it cost the Los Angeles Unified School Districtmore than $151 million between 2012 and 2013. Most cases occur in the early grades of elementary schooland close to a quarter million students missed 10% or more of the 2013-14 school year.

All this is serious, but it may be even worse, because one of every 10 school districts reported not knowing their level of truancy, while California is one of only four states in the entire country without a state system for tracking school attendance.

Not having such a system will make it hard to implement the LCFF, which requires monitoring the neediest school population, the target of the new formula.

There are several legislative bills that help resolve this obstacle, such as AB 1866 sponsored by assembly member Raúl Bocanegra, which is awaiting signature by Governor Jerry Brown. This measure is part of a package of laws promoted by Harris.

School absenteeism, especially at the start of elementary school, has harmful consequences, as it sets the tone and school routine that students follow in the future. The impact on a young person of not going to school can make the difference between a productive life and one in prison.

The purpose of the LCFF is to serve the school population facing the most difficulties, such as English-learners. To be successful, it must have the elements necessary to combat problems like truancy.