SPRINGFIELD, ILÂ â€“ Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) called on her colleagues to establish a task force to study the truancy and absenteeism crisis in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Senate adopted a resolution creating the group and instructing it to hold public hearings and report its findings to the General Assembly by the end of this year.
â€œChronically absent children are not learning and preparing; they also may be in unsafe situations,â€ Collins said. â€œTruancy can be caused by factors such as poverty, crime, abuse and neglect, substance abuse and poor health, and we cannot ask teachers and principals to solve this problem alone.â€
In 2012, a Chicago Tribune investigation found that nearly 1 in 8 CPS students in grades K-8 missed four or more weeks of class during the 2010-11 school year. Nine percent of kindergarteners were classified as chronically truant. More than one-fifth of black elementary school students and 42 percent of students with special needs were absent four or more weeks during the same time period.
â€œThe need to keep our children in the classroom is an urgent one, especially as missed days cause our youngest students to fall farther behind in reading and basic math,â€ Collins said. â€œEmpty classroom seats also cause CPS to lose state education funding based on attendance; if we could increase the attendance rate in CPS by just one percent, our schools would gain $9 million each year.â€
The legislature is already taking steps to help school districts address truancy. A measure Collins co-sponsored will lower the age at which a child must begin attending school from seven to six. This will allow districts to better identify chronically truant younger children and obtain resources to help their families get them to school.