San Francisco and Contra Costa counties’ truancy rates among elementary school students are some of the highest in the state, according to a report released by the attorney general earlier this week.
During the 2013-2014 academic year, more than a quarter of students from each of those counties were considered truant, meaning they had three or more unexcused absences.
“Elementary school truancy has sweeping implications for our state’s economy and public safety,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris in a press release.
In San Francisco, 29 percent of elementary school students were considered truant, resulting in a loss of over $12 million in state funding. Contra Costa County scored a little higher, with a 30 percent truancy rate among students and $36 million in loss of funding.
In total, truancy and absenteeism cost California elementary schools over $1 billion.
But truancy isn’t just costing the schools – it’s costing young students, as well. The study showed that students who miss substantive amounts of school at an early age are likely to run into educational roadblocks later in their academic career.
“When students are chronically absent from elementary school, they fall behind academically, they are less likely to graduate from high school, and they are more likely to be unemployed, on public assistance, or victims or perpetrators of crime,” the study stated.
Racial disparities are also evident in the findings. Chronic absence rates for African American and Native American students were almost 30 percent across kindergarten classrooms.
But the news isn’t all bad: A majority of schools have improved upon methods used to track student absences. Identifying students who are having issues could allow administrators to allocate resources, such as counseling, to those students.
As San Francisco County District Attorney in 2006, Harris was instrumental in starting a citywide initiative to reduce truancy ratings.
“We must do more to keep our children in school,” Harris said.