The California School Dashboard went into effect in December 2017. Under the new system for grading schools’ and districts’ performance, student attendance will affect schools’ scores, and thus their funding. In anticipation of the system, government schools have been cracking down hard on truancy.
“A student only needs to be 30 minutes late for school three times to be labeled a truant and have a letter sent home threatening their parents with prosecution,” the Sacramento Bee reported in October 2017. “Being tagged a chronic truant—after missing 10 percent or more of the school year—could mean up to a $2,000 fine and jail time for parents or the student.”
Sac Bee included several examples in its October report, including a student receiving a truancy letter from her elementary school when she missed four days of school to attend her sister’s wedding and then visited the Grand Canyon, and a student deemed to be a truant for traveling to Oregon to view the total solar eclipse in August 2017.
Under California law, students are allowed to miss only one day of school for the death of an immediate family member, or three days if the service is outside the state.
Following the Money
Arizona state Rep. Paul Mosley (R–Lake Havasu City) says truancy laws all boil down to government schools chasing more tax money.
“The focus is less on kids and more on other things: the bureaucracy, the money,” Mosley said. “The way that most schools get paid is based on daily attendance, so they’re not necessarily so interested in their kids getting educated as they are in just having them attend every day because then they can get more funding.”
Mosley says government schools have become places for children to be held, with learning being a secondary concern.
“School has become a prison-like atmosphere,” Mosely said. “We decide what you wear, when you go to recess, whom you sit next to in the lunchroom. [The students] have no freedom, [and] … our school system is becoming a model for socialism and communism.”
Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, says schools are encroaching on families’ decision-making.
“The entire matter is summed up best by the mother who said, ‘I didn’t have children to [have them] be raised by the school system,'” Sand said. “If a parent is abusing or neglecting a child, the school has a right to step in. But if a parent wants to take their kid on a trip or if a relative dies, why should the government have the power to trump the wishes of parents?”
Teachers Get Better Deal
Sand says because of district agreements with teachers unions, students are more heavily penalized for missing class than teachers are.
“Maybe school districts need to address the fact that teachers who miss school to do whatever are allowed to do so without consequences,” Sand said. “But no, they won’t do that, because the unions won’t let them.
“Perhaps parents need a collective bargaining agreement,” Sand said.
Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.
Arizona Rep. Paul Mosley (R-Lake Havasu City): https://votesmart.org/candidate/biography/171697/paul-mosley#.Wk5yNN-nHIU