It doesn't matter how good a school is if students don't show up to class.
In 2012, about 7.5 million students were chronically absent from schools nationwide. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, truancy, defined as unexcused absence from school, is a growing problem.
The consequences of truancy aren't limited to a few missed lessons, either—there is a litany of long-term side effects that impact not just the children, but their communities and the nation's economic health as a whole.
“We all as a society have a responsibility to own our role and our potential to improve these numbers.”—California Attorney General Kamala Harris
The children who are most likely to miss class are perhaps the children who need it most. Studies suggest that students of color, who make up a growing share of the nation's students, and those living in poverty are more likely to be absent. These children are less likely to have access to educational resources outside of the classroom and at home. They have higher dropout rates and are less likely to go to college and to be employed as adults. These students are also more likely to end up in prison.
As California Attorney General Kamala Harris said during a press call to discuss the report Tuesday, "This issue of truancy is a public safety issue, it is an economic issue, and I think we can solve it."
Harris commissioned a study in the mid-2000s that found that nearly 85 percent of elementary school students in her state who missed at least 10 percent of the school year unexcused came from low-income families. Her team's research also suggested that nearly 4 in 10 African-American students sampled were truant.