LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement applauding the California Department of Education for its efforts to collect statewide data on students who are chronically absent. The Attorney General has made the fight against elementary school truancy and chronic absenteeism a top priority. She issued the first statewide report on California’s elementary school truancy crisis and sponsored legislation to address the issue.
“Until now, California was one of a handful of states that did not track student attendance. I applaud the California Department of Education for taking this monumental step toward addressing California’s elementary school truancy and chronic absence crisis,” said Attorney General Harris. “I have called for this data collection since 2013 and was proud to sponsor a legislative package in 2014 that aimed to modernize California’s attendance records system and establish the support that schools, parents and communities need to ensure our students are in school and on track from kindergarten through high school. I look forward to working with our partners to build on this action and guarantee that every child has the opportunity to succeed.”
In 2013, Attorney General Harris issued the first statewide report, In School + On Track, on California’s elementary school truancy crisis, which made a direct link between public education and public safety. Eighty-three percent of students who miss more than 10% of kindergarten and first grade cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade, which makes them four times more likely to drop out of high school. Annually, dropouts cost California taxpayers an estimated $46.4 billion in incarceration, lost productivity and lost taxes.
The Attorney General issued subsequent reports in 2014 and 2015, reporting on the state’s on-going elementary school truancy crisis and the progress that has been made to address the issue. In School + On Track 2015 found that our state continues to face an attendance crisis, reporting that 230,000 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. In addition, the report highlighted stark disparities in attendance and discipline for vulnerable students, including students of color, low-income students, and students in foster care. The report also highlighted the effects of chronic absenteeism in addressing issues such as unemployment, crime, economic development, public health and public safety.
Each of the Attorney General’s reports stress the need to consistently and accurately track attendance data at the state level so that students do not fall through the cracks.
In 2014, Attorney General Harris sponsored legislation to help schools, parents and government leaders effectively intervene when children are chronically absent, and improve local school districts’ and counties’ ability to track attendance patterns. The bills included efforts to assist school districts and county offices of education working with parents to address high truancy rates by giving them the tools to comply with attendance tracking requirements in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and a proposal to modernize the way California collects and monitors student attendance data. Two of the bills, AB 2141 (Hall, Bonta) and AB 1643 (Buchanan), were signed by the Governor. AB 1866 (Bocanegra), which would have required the data collection announced today, was vetoed.