The hidden truancy crisis

State Attorney General Kamala Harris addressed a gathering of California newspaper publishers last week in Sacramento, and shared a smattering of disturbing and revelatory statistics about a crisis in education that has received relatively scant media attention.

In one study, said Harris, 94 percent of San Francisco murder victims turned out to be high school dropouts. Nationwide, 82 percent of all prisoners are high school dropouts. Buried in those statistics, hidden in plain sight, is a simple conclusion: dropping out of school can be a prison sentence, if not a death sentence.

And a leading indicator of drop-out probability is the truancy rate of elementary school students.

Which is where the under-reported crisis is hiding.

In the 2012-13 school year, 29.6 percent of California elementary students were truant. That was close to 1 million kids officially reported being absent or tardy by more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse on three occasions in a school year.

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