School truancy has reached a state of nationwide crisis and California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, along with members of The Center for American Progress (CAP) announced a “call to action” by announcing CAP’s recent report entitled “The High Cost of Truancy.”
The CAP report, which outlines the many consequences of truancy, explores the students most at risk of chronic absenteeism, examines how and why students become disconnected from schools, and identifies state measures that have the potential for expansion across the country.
“Truancy and absenteeism come at a high cost to children’s education, but also to the economy and to public safety,” Harris pointed out. “The CAP report sheds light on this national crises and it highlights innovative, data driven and proven solutions to keep children in school and on track.”
“The lifelong impact of truancy is alarming,” said Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at CAP. “It is a predictor of low student achievement, increased dropout rates, and can be a gateway to the school to prison pipeline. Truancy can also have a negative impact on lifelong earnings. Students who drop out of high school earn $300,000 less over a lifetime than high school graduates and are more likely to be unemployed.”
It seems that who truancy affects is just as important as how it affects teens.
“Truancy particularly affects low-income students and students of color, who are more likely to be absent from school,” Martin continued. “Lawmakers and education activists are troubled by this trend because people of color are projected to be the majority of the U.S. population by the early 2040’s.”
The report also revealed that there were significant disparities based on the race of the students. Chronically low income students and students of color are 60 percent more likely to experience the negative effects associated
with chronic absenteeism and experience poor academic attendance.
“The truancy numbers are staggering,” Harris pointed out. “Nationally, high school dropouts are three times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested and more than eight times more likely to be incarcerated.
“In California, I focused on truancy as a public safety and an economic issue and the connection between chronic absenteeism and third grade reading levels,” said Harris. “In California, 83 percent of truant kindergarten to third grade students will not read proficiently by third grade and they are four times more likely to drop out of school than students reading at grade level.”
The report outlines that, according to the most recent CAP findings in 2012, an estimated 7.5 million students in
the United States were chronically absent from school.
“In California, 250,000 elementary school students were chronically absent during the 2012 to 2013 school year,” Harris stated.
The CAP report also pointed out that truancy and absenteeism lead to criminal justice involvement.
“So the result is that nationally, you are looking at an African American man between the ages of 30 to 34 who is a high school dropout and the data tells us that he is two-thirds more likely to have been in jail, be in jail or dead,” said Harris.
“Truancy and absenteeism costs cost us billions of dollars a year in California alone,” Harris continued. “We
estimate that dropouts cost 46 billion dollars a year in the burdens they place on California’s public safety, our public health, and our social service systems.”
The CAP report presented federal, state and local policy recommendations to combat truancy, including improving data collection for early warning systems as early as 6th grade; increasing wrap-around services in schools; and conducting outreach to parents and guardians for children at risk for truancy.
“This issue of truancy is a public safety and an economic issue, but I think we can solve it,” said Harris. “The good news is that truancy is preventable. Just a small investment in students can make a difference in the next generation of workers, innovators and leaders.”