California’s Solution to Truancy ‘Crisis’: More Bureaucracy!

"We will get our pensions, dammit!"The SimpsonsToday Democratic California Attorney General (and potential future gubernatorial candidate) Kamala Harris figured out how to appeal to the powerful school unions in the state without having to wade into the difficult issues like their massive pension debts or the fact that more and more Californians are turning to charter schools to get the heck out of the system.  

The big crisis is truancy, she argues, and she and several Democratic lawmakers introduced today a package of bills to fight it. In her big press release, she makes no bones about what the goal of reducing truancy is; in the very first paragraph, Harris mentions how absences cost the state school system $1.4 billion a year, because state school funding is tied to attendance.

In a way, I’ve always appreciated how nakedly honest California is about the reasons it’s fighting truancy. They want their money and they want it now. Whether the quality of education or the way students (or parents) are treated contributes to student truancy is not a concern. The law says students need to be in school, the school gets money for students being in school, and so the law is going to drag students into school so that the schools will get their money. Oh, hey, and maybe the law can make some money on the side, too, by fining the parents.

Before looking at these proposed solutions, let’s look at a moment at what Harris calls a crisis:

“According to the California Department of Education, 691,470 California elementary school children, or 1 out of every 5 elementary school students, were reported to be truant in the 2011-2012 school year.”  

Holy crap, that’s a lot! But wait just a minute. Here is how the State of California describes “truant”:

In California, a student is truant if he/she is absent or tardy by more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse on 3 occasions in a school year.

Yeah, so if Mom or Dad gets caught in traffic or is somehow late three times in a school year that means the kids are well on their way to becoming hardened criminals. California schools really, really want their money, folks. Harris further notes that one school reported that 92 percent of its students were truant in one year, but given the state’s definition, it’s a little hard to feel any outrage. She explains further that 250,000 elementary school students miss more than 10 percent of the school year and 20,000 elementary school kids miss more than 35 days of school a year. She describes this statistic as “shocking,” even though that works out to less than a percent of the total students in California’s school system.

Something has to be done, folks! Truant kids don’t learn things, and then they drop out of school and cause crime. Clearly, the solution would be to give parents flexibility in educating their kids and provide a system that allows for choices that work for families with different needs. Ha! Ha! Just kidding. You will accommodate the state’s schedule, citizens! Instead, Harris and lawmakers are suggesting more studies, more recordkeeping, more reports, and a mandate that every county create a special review board to deal with student attendance issues. That last one is an interesting item, as the state already allows for these boards. As part of the legislation mandating their creation, they are adding that a board must include a representative from the county’s district attorney’s office. And if there are costs because of this mandate (like, say, requiring somebody from the district attorney's office to attend), the state is required to reimburse them. How much money are they going to end up spending chasing after this $1.4 billion lost from student absences?

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  • Paul.||

    I always thought truancy was a feature, not a bug.

  • LarryA||

    Like, if the student is truant for a day, it saves the government money.

    Only in the Bear State, saving the government money is a bug, not a feature.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    How much money are they going to end up spending chasing after this $1.4 billion lost from student absences?

    Government is just like any other business and in business you have to spend money to make money. And California is spending money on...THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN.

  • Number 7||

    but wouldn't it be more profitable if the little brats just stayed at home? They don't wear out books, chew pencils or wear down the carpet that way.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    If the children are at home, how will they learn life's more important lessons (how to ask for permission and take orders)? How will they be properly socialized?

  • Number 7||

    super easy solution to the problem, redefine truancy as absent for like half the year, they get their money, no fuss. Seriously why hasn't anyone figured this out

  • Agammamon||

    That's not how they get their money.

    They get the money only if the little house-ape is actually in his seat in class at the start of the schoolday.

    Doesn't matter how they define truancy, doesn't even really matter if he leaves after attendance is take but, by God!, he had best be there at the start of the day.

  • Alch||

    I do repair work at a few schools in the midwest. They have 2 to 3 people who only deal with attendance.

  • Rich||

    They have 2 to 3 people who only deal with attendance.

    Sounds like a job for a machine: Enter school through metal detector, have your daily attendance registered by RFID. Non-attenders' guardians get robocalled. Three strikes and the police are automagically dispatched. Those schools save millions of dollars.

    Of course, aside from the federal "aid" gimmick, they could save even more by making attendance voluntary.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Metal detector? I went to a shitty city school that catered to crime-ridden neighborhoods, and even we didn't bother with a metal detector. Of course, the teacher reaction to truancy was "Thank god those thugs skipped today".

  • XM||

    Create a student data base to be used by local leisure spots (theme parks, coffee shops, skate board parks). If a kid comes into to buy five 99 cent churros before 3 PM, check his ID.

    If you're late 3 times, your undocumented parents are deported back to their country of origin.... but will be allowed to return after a year of perfect attendance. The student is forced to live with a rich white parents.

    Give the student a free PS4 / Xbone for perfect attendance. The problem is solved.

    In fact, they should scrap the honor roll and award ceremonies and give REAL prizes to whoever posts the best grade. Ipads and stuff.

  • Agammamon||

    So, what if their country of origin is the United States?

  • Contrarian P||

    Who cares? Deport them anyway!

  • Strapping Young Lad||

    Air drop them into Detroit.

  • The Real Jose||

    The truancy thing is out of control in California. They sent us truancy letters for two of our children. Were they absent from school? You betcha. We pulled them out a couple of days early to travel internationally. We told the school administration about our trip in advance, of course.

    Well, we learned our lesson. Two of our kids are now permanently "truant" at private schools. The third will follow as soon as we can afford it. Oh, and if we decide to travel before then, she's going to be sick for a couple of days right before vacation.

  • Number 7||

    My kids never ever for one day set foot in a public school (not trying to sound better than you) and I never really thought twice about taking them out of school. I wanted them to be there but if we had a family thing or a vacation, I did it without any worry. We went to Hawaii and they missed a few days of school. I figured real life experience is better than a few days of book learning.

  • ||

    Why is Maggie in detention?

    Is she even old enough to be in school?

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    That's not Maggie. If you're looking at the one I think you are, it's Wendell.

  • tarran||

    So, I got a lovely letter from my kids school about my son's being absent, wanting to have a 'conversation on how to best proceed'.

    I should preface what follows with the following: My son has missed a handful of days because (a) he had a surgical procedure under general anaesthetic, (b) he got nailed with the death flu going around last November that put him in bed for a week.

    Massachusetts General Law Chapter 76, section 1, mandates that all students between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school. In accordance with this regulation, school districts are required to regularly monitor attendance and report any excessive absences to the appropriate state agencies. These agencies include the Department of Children and Families and the Middlesex Juvenile Court.

    As a result of our most recent attendance review, we found that your son, _____, has been out of school for 8 days. A copy of this report is below. While we recognize that many variables contribute to a student's need to occasionally or even regularly be absent, the current status of your child's absences warrants a more in depth review in order for us to determine how best to proceed.

    Maybe it's my prejudices speaking, but there is an whiff of Pauli's "Fuck you, pay me" in their tone. I could be wrong. Maybe its the fashion here in MA to broach conversations by reminding people that you could rat them out to the juvie criminal system. :)

  • SugarFree||

    That's a real, um, interesting name for your son.

  • XM||

    Unless I'm mistaken, a doctor's note should be enough to excuse the truancy. Lots of Asian parents beg their doctors to provide written notes after their kids miss school for less valid reasons.

  • Paul.||

    the current status of your child's absences warrants a more in depth review in order for us to determine how best to proceed.

    Maybe it's my prejudices speaking, but there is an whiff of Pauli's "Fuck you, pay me" in their tone

    No shit. Even before I read the last part of your post, I was all, "That's kind of ominous."

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    That would infuriate me. If you haven't yet called someone and reamed them out, you are a more patient man than me.

  • Rich||

    report any excessive absences to the appropriate state agencies. These agencies include the Department of Children and Families and the Middlesex Juvenile Court

    "as well as the Potential Sexual Predator Registry and the local Office of the Department of Homeland Security. We appreciate your prompt cooperation in this matter."

  • C. Anacreon||

    They are way off base, just ask Berkeley (D) congresswoman Barbara Lee. Yesterday she had an op/ed in the Oakland Tribune that said the reason that only about 50% of black males in Oakland finish high school is -- wait for it -- Republicans 'continue to gut nutrition programs'.

  • Number 7||

    There is/was a California Commission on the Status of African-American Males?

  • ||

    Proof that if Republicans did not exist Democrats would have to invent them.

    The left's failings are always someone else's fault.

  • PapayaSF||

    So black parents have kids they can't afford to feed, and it's the fault of Republicans. Got it.

    Kamala Harris, by the way, is a total Democratic machine politician/partisan whore. That is all.

  • Sevo||

    "Kamala Harris, by the way, is a total Democratic machine politician/partisan whore."
    Former Willy Brown GF, and the question has always been who's zoomin' who?

  • Agammamon||

    . . . elementary school kids miss more than 35 days of school a year. She describes this statistic as “shocking,” . . .

    Well, its *is* shocking, when you consider that during the 9 month school 'year' classes are actually only in session for around 6 of those months.

  • Sudden||

    I was routinely truant in my final few years as a public school enrollee in California. Had I attended class with greater regularity, I never would've received an education.

  • flye||

    I wouldn't say I was "missing" school, Ms. Harris...

  • Sevo||

    ..."Something has to be done, folks!"

    Issuing a press release will satisfy the requirement for the AG.
    And the only reason something had to be done is that Newsom has been upstaging her and moonbeam for the last couple of weeks. First, he points out that moonbeam's choo-choo is a waste of money, and now he's yammering on about how dope should be legal! What's a washed up politico and a hack in the pockets of the unions to do?

  • GILMORE||

    It would be nice if we could shed this perennial pretense that Public School Teachers are some kind of moral paragons who sacrifice their lives for the chance to help improve opportunities for the young people of this country, instilling in them our most widely-held values, nurturing their latent virtue, ever-sharpening their intellects and constantly challenging them to maximize their potential, preparing them to meet any challenge and leaving the rest of us proud to be the forebears of a better generation...

    ...rather than just being a bunch of incompetent, half-wit thugs who hold our children ransom while bleeding the state dry for all the money they can get for the least possible effort expended. And COMPLAINING while they do it.

  • Sudden||

    And COMPLAINING while they do it.

    Well, it is a profession dominated by females...

    #thisiswhytherearenofemalelibertarians

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Can anyone explain to me why education can not be taken entirely online?

  • cavalier973||

    Because the Republicans always oppose government funding for free wi-fi for every American household. Duh!

  • LarryA||

    Democratic California Attorney General (and potential future gubernatorial candidate) Kamala Harris

    FTFY

  • ||

    In Michigan, at least at one time, state subsidy to "poor" districts was based on the "official" attendance on a single day in the first week or two. School districts would give away free stuff to entice the kids to show up for one day, then be glad to not see them ever again.

    Is this truancy issue tied to tighter Federal rules on Title One funding? That would cost CA "real dollars"...

  • ||

    1 in 5 students = 691470 So there are 5x 691470 students. That is 3,457,350
    1.4 billion dollars divided by 3,457,350 is $405 per student.

    Split it with the brats. Any kid who is not truant all year gets $100 per semester or $200 per year. The school keeps the rest of the loot. If my kids could get a crisp Benjamin each semester for being on time, I wouldn't have to yell at them to get their shoes on in the morning.

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