Truancy: A reflection of the state of education in Pennsylvania

In Philadelphia, a persistent issue threatens the future of countless students: truancy.

Truancy, the chronic absence from school, is not just one student’s or one school’s problem: It’s everybody’s problem. It’s disruptive to the classroom today and can have a negative impact on the success of our youth tomorrow, eventually costing taxpayers dollars.

It’s a complex issue, driven by myriad factors, including poverty, lack of transportation, unstable home environments and disengagement from school, and was only exacerbated by the pandemic and toxic school closures disconnecting many students from school buildings for extended periods of time.

According to a Philadelphia Inquirer article, thousands of students in Philadelphia have missed more than 10% of school days. Anything over 10% is chronic absenteeism and that is shown to widen achievement gaps and deprive students of opportunity.

People point fingers at different causes of truancy, like students are just lazy, rebellious, and meant for an unfulfilling life. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Many times, the problem is layered in issues that exist outside a student’s control. It’s representative of the immense lack of resources families face and the poverty they experience.

How can we berate our students for not going to school when they don’t have a steady place to sleep at night, when they are working and raising siblings?

Can we blame them for not wanting to attend schools that are falling apart and putting their health at risk, where they are learning from outdated material?

The Pennsylvania House Democrats have drafted and passed significant, bipartisan legislation that would give our students hope and show them that we are not only fighting for their education — but their futures as well.

During budget negotiations, we wanted to ensure that our state colleges, which provide valuable education to many students in the commonwealth, had the funding they needed to keep tuition reasonable and offered families a break by freezing tuition increases for the next year.

To keep up appearances in the ongoing culture war that they are waging, Republicans blocked this vital funding.

We want our student-teachers to be focused and dedicated in the classroom. They cannot do that if they have to run to a part-time job right after school is out.

We passed a bill that would provide stipends to student-teachers so they can fully embrace the mission of teaching students. It waits in the Republican-controlled Senate for action.

House Democrats invested a historic amount of money into public education, and we blocked voucher programs that would take money from public schools and give it to private and religious schools. It’s important to note that data shows that private schools aren’t required by law to provide the same level of resources to students with disabilities as public schools.

Maybe the problem with students attending school is that it’s a constant reminder that they were left behind.

It should a constant reminder to those with the power to do something that there’s work that must be done. This is a “now” issue; our children’s future depends on it.