Contra Costa is one of nine counties statewide with an elementary school truancy rate greater than 25 percent, according to a new report by the state Attorney General.
The county’s elementary school truancy rate of 28.6 percent is less than the county’s total truancy rate of 37.6 percent. Martinez Unified School District has a truancy rate of 33.1 percent.
Truancy is defined as being absent or tardy by more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse three times in a school year.
Claiming that the state’s public schools are in the midst of an attendance crisis, the report calls for fighting chronic truancy in the elementary years as a means of preventing students from dropping out of high school. The report cites figures showing that high school dropouts cost the state $46.4 billion a year in prison costs, lost productivity and unrealized taxable income.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris has been active in efforts to reduce truancy for years. When she was the district attorney in San Francisco, she launched a controversial program to prosecute the parents of chronically truant kids.
While the new report allows that truancy is illegal, it recommends aggressive counseling and outreach on the part of school districts and other local agencies before turning to the courts.
The report’s chief recommendation is to use more sophisticated tracking systems that help school districts identify individual truant students.