Lawmakers Discuss Rise in Chronic Absenteeism

The number of students who have missed 10% or more of schooling has nearly tripled over the past two years.

“We are facing an attendance crisis at every grade,” Attendance Works Executive Director Hedy Chang told state lawmakers during an oversight hearing on chronic absenteeism Tuesday. 

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond testified about the high rate of absences since the pandemic started.

“There’s no question this is the toughest time we will experience in our lifetime,” he said.

Experts said the rise in chronic absenteeism is due to increased COVID-19 cases, students continuing remote learning, and older students who have work or family responsibilities on top of school. A group of parents upset over masks and vaccine mandates have argued COVID precautions are keeping children out of the classroom. They were at the meeting Tuesday to demand an end to public health mandates.

The student absence issues should not significantly impact schools’ funding, state lawmakers said. The California Legislative Analyst Office projects a surplus will yield $20 billion for education in the upcoming budget.