A truancy crisis is plaguing D.C. schools. That’s the only possible conclusion to reach after the news this week “ reported by Jim McElhatton of The Washington Times “ that almost one in four D.C. public-school students skipped school without an excuse 20 or more times last year. That’s more than 15,000 of 65,000 students citywide. The District’s truancy rate is more than four times the national average, according to Ken Seeley, president of the National Center for School Engagement. This compares poorly with neighboring Prince George’s County (1.8 percent), Fairfax County (0.6 percent) and Montgomery County (0.9 percent).
The question is, why? With the lavish funding the District bestows on its schools $11,269 per pupil, more than any of the 50 states it can’t be a lack of funding. Lax enforcement is the obvious candidate. Asked to comment on the truancy findings, Board of Education President Peggy Cooper Cafritz pointed to school quality, saying that “having good, alluring substantive schools for kids to go to” would yield a “sustained decrease” in truancy.