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CalMatters: Soaring Chronic Absenteeism In CA Schools Is At ‘Pivotal Moment’

Source: CalMatters

As a new school year gets underway in California, districts are desperately trying to lure thousands of missing, tardy and truant students back to the classroom in what many view as a pivotal moment for education in California.

In 2021-22, 30% of students in California’s public schools were chronically absent, an all-time high and more than three times the pre-pandemic rate. Advocates fear that unless schools can reverse the trend, so many students will fall behind that they may never catch up.

... It’s unclear how much impact these programs have had so far, or if they’ll survive once COVID relief funding expires or the state budget tightens. But in any case, the state needs to do more, said Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting, a Democrat representing San Francisco.

“It’s worrisome that kids are still staying home from school in record numbers,” Ting said. “Our investments in universal school meals, after-school programs and home-to-school transportation have not been enough to bring students back.” 

Ting said he’s hopeful that studying the issue will lead to solutions.

“When children don’t regularly attend class, they fall behind on their lessons, and they are more likely to drop out – some as early as kindergarten. The implications of a less-educated generation are great,” he said. “We need to understand why attendance is below pre-COVID levels, so that we can better direct state resources and education leaders where they’ll be most effective in re-engaging students.”