- California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday announced a free online toolkit designed to help fight what her office calls a "truancy crisis" in the state's elementary schools, as well as a lack of understanding by parents around how crucial early childhood school attendance is to learning.
- The Ad Council and The California Endowment partnered on the project, which offers various resources like the option to receive text messages.
- According to Harris, over 200,000 California elementary school students were chronically absent in the 2014-15 school year.
Truancy has been proven to have long-term effects on student learning, and the new toolkit addresses that by offering educational videos and research about the problem's consequences. The California Attorney General's office released a report called "In School + On Track 2015" in September that examined California's elementary schools, finding that 230,000 California elementary school students missed more than 10% of the school year. More than 1 in 5 were found to be truant, with three or more unexcused absences, and the rate for both truancy and absences disproportionately affected children of color.
Harris' focus on schools doesn't end with absenteeism and truancy. She has publicly linked statewide statistics on the truancy crisis to the economy, noting that students who can't read at grade level by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school. Dropouts reportedly cost California taxpayers nearly $46.4 billion in incarceration, lost productivity, and lost taxes.
The Office of the Attorney General is also investigating for-profit online charter schools in the state, in the wake of a 2015 report by In The Public Interest that found that the California Virtual Academies (CAVA) network was "a failing system that consistently produces more dropouts than graduates."