Sunday, March 18, 2007


by Dan Basalone in the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA) Newsletter

March 12, 2007 For months, politicians in Los Angeles and Sacramento have used dropout statistics as a means to bludgeon LAUSD as a mediocre, failing district. Even worse, it has been implied that the district, meaning all employees, don’t really care whether students finish school or not. In the broader sense, all urban and rural school districts with high dropout rates have been castigated as failing districts. First, let’s set the record straight: Dropouts are actually truants according to the State Education Code …if any politician cares to read the law.

In its continuing effort to educate politicians and the general public, AALA provides the following information from the Education Code of the State of California:

· Section 48200. Each person between the ages of 6 and 18 years not exempted under the provisions of this chapter or Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 48400) is subject to compulsory full-time education.

· Section 48430. Children who hold work permits shall be exempted, but such children shall be subject to compulsory attendance upon part-time classes.

· Section 48450. Each parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any minor required to attend special continuation education classes, shall compel the attendance of the minor upon the classes. He shall retain a copy of the permit to work and shall present it upon request of any officer of the law, or other person authorized to enforce provisions of this chapter.

· Section 48460. (a) Any pupil subject to compulsory full-time education or to compulsory continuation education who is absent from school without valid excuse three full days in one school year or tardy or absent for more than any 30-minute period during the school day without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year, or any combination thereof, is a truant and shall be reported to the attendance supervisor or to the superintendent of the school district.

· Section 48291. If it appears upon investigation that any parent, guardian, or other person having control or charge of any child has violated any of the provisions of this chapter, the secretary of the board of education, except as provided in Section 48292, or the clerk of the board of trustees, shall refer such person to a school attendance review board. In the event that any such parent, guardian, or other person continually and willfully fails to respond to directives of the school attendance review board or services provided, the school attendance review board shall direct the school district to make and file in proper court a criminal complaint against the parent, guardian, or other person, charging the violation, and shall see that the charge is prosecuted by the proper authority.

AALA encourages every citizen, including illustrious politicians, to go online to the California Government Code website and read the complete text of the sections dealing with compulsory school attendance that are referenced above.

It is a disservice to the many hardworking teachers, administrators and classified staff personnel of LAUSD to blame them for dropouts when the primary responsibility for attendance is parental. AALA acknowledges that schools have a legal and professional responsibility to provide the best education possible given the resources available. Districts also have the responsibility to provide the counseling and intervention programs mandated by the State, as well as district initiated retention strategies. Secondary schools especially need to implement a comprehensive curriculum in order to meet the learning needs of all students. Career education, the arts, physical education, industrial arts and other curricula are needed in addition to A – G academic classes. Motivation for learning comes in many forms depending on individual needs because one size does not fit all, and it must be culturally relevant.

AALA reminds the naysayers that the thousands of students who matriculate through the grades and graduate annually should be applauded for doing the daily work of attending school and learning. The parents of matriculating students and the graduates should be praised for making sure that their children attend school on a regular basis and complete work assignments. Isn’t that what all parents are supposed to do? Any politician who says that it is the school’s responsibility to keep students in school, blithely dismisses this parental role in their pathetic attempt to make a political point. They also contribute to the denial of those parents who are neglectful of their children’s education.

AALA encourages parents, nonparent community members and politicians to visit their local schools in LAUSD and other districts to discover the learning that is taking place. At the same time, they will observe the thousands of dedicated students who are attending school and learning because their parents or guardians make sure that they attend to their learning activities. It is sad that other students are not in attendance; however, that is not the fault of the school because it is truancy and the responsibility of the parent or guardian. AALA encourages school officials and parents or guardians to follow the compulsory education laws referenced above and to be their childs primary advocate and cheerleader. If a parent is unsure of the advocacy role, 10th and 31st District PTA chapters provide the support needed to learn this role.

Learning is work and by its very nature not easily acquired. It takes persistence and fortitude to deal with failure that is inevitable when attempting to learn new skills. Despite any learning frustration, the Education Code is very clear that not attending school is TRUANCY.

smf opines: Thank you Dan; PTA’s role IS to advocate for kids and to educate parents – I thank AALA for the plug and for reminding their members what PTA is supposed to do!
PTA is NOT a fundraising engine to make up for budget shortfalls and wish lists!

WHICH BRINGS ME TO THIS: In California we have a compulsory education system. Parents are compelled by law to send their kids to school until they are 18 and/or graduate. Children are compelled to attend school; like gravity and Dan said earlier: IT’S THE LAW!

In the good old days, when Lucy was still married to Desi and television (if not the world entire) was in black-and-white there were truant officers. Boys in blue from LAPD – city employees – enforced compulsory attendance. They stopped kids on the street between 8AM and 3PM and asked questions; they hauled students without an excuse back to school.

Later truant officers became Pupil Services and Attendance (PSA) Counselors, school district employees who sought out truants, chronic absentees, “skippers” and “ditchers” – and their parents – and brought them to school and saw that they kept coming. The advent of year ‘round calendars made the work a little harder (one third of a given school's student body could be legally out of school at any one time) – but that in itself didn’t make the job impossible, only harder.

But when the budget needed cutting those PSA jobs were the first to go the focus was on the classroom and PSA Counselors doing their job weren’t there. Laudable on the face of it; but dumb. Dumb because it served to allow those kids not in the classroom to remain that way – and dumber still because the PSA program was fiscally self-sustaining: Every truant returned to school produces revenue in the form of Average Daily Attendance money. ADA IS the school district’s primary source of revenue …the PSA program paid for itself and more!

Rounding up the dropouts and truants isn’t the only answer; school needs to be made more relevant and appealing to kids at risk of being lift behind. Parents that allow their kids to skip school and drop out should be held accountable. And maybe the cops on the street in their radio cars need to turn off the air conditioning, roll down the windows and do the most basic of community policing: “Excuse me …why aren’t you in school?”

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