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California Truancy Rates At Crisis Level; Bay Area Hit Hard

SACRAMENTO (KCBS) - More elementary school kids in Contra Costa and Alameda counties miss school than students in almost any other county in California according to a new report which says state truancy is at a 'crisis' level.

California's Attorney General Kamala Harris championed the cause of anti-truancy when she was San Francisco's District Attorney several years ago. Now she's brought her effort to the state level with her first annual report on elementary student truancy.

"The California Constitution guarantees every child the right to an education, yet we are failing our youngest children, as early as kindergarten," Harris said in a statement. "This crisis is not only crippling for our economy, it is a basic threat to public safety."

"40 percent of truant students in California are in elementary school. In some elementary schools up to 92-percent of their students are truants," said Harris.

California's High Truancy Rates Hits Hard In 2 Bay Area Counties

Contra Costa County has one of the highest truancy rates in the state last year at 28.6 percent, according to the report, with Alameda County weighing in next at 23.8 percent.

Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo and Calaveras had the highest truancy rates — about 30%.

"We have a very active truancy court that meets in Alameda County's Superior Court every Friday," said Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Teresa Drenick.

She said they're actually seeing some success with about 90 percent of parents and children re-engaging in education after the court hearings.

"Chronic absence rate amongst young kids; kindergarten and first grade is actually the best predictor of high school dropouts," said Ted Lempert, president of the executive team at Children Now, a national organization.

Dropouts cost the state an estimated $46 billion a year in incarceration, lost productivity and lost tax revenue according to Harris' report.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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