Kamala Harris’ stance on truancy again an issue as she launches presidential campaign

California Senator Kamala Harris’ tough stance on truancy, her signature education issue while she was a local and state prosecutor, is again attracting attention as she embarks on a campaign for president and schools statewide are facing increased scrutiny on chronic absenteeism.

In a video clip from a speech she gave in 2010 while she was San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris, who later that year became the state attorney general, attributes her success in life to her education. She says: “I believe a child going without an education is tantamount to a crime. So, I decided I was going to start prosecuting parents for truancy.”

Kamala Harris at an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club in 2010, explaining her decision as San Francisco DA to get tough on truancy.

Critics of truancy crackdowns say such efforts unfairly target poor parents and children without actually helping students. pic.twitter.com/GKkDpayxuv

— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 28, 2019

The clip, which has been viewed more than 2 million times since she announced her candidacy last month, raises difficult questions about the extent to which parents should be held responsible for getting their children to school and whether or how they should be punished if they don’t.

“We recognized that as a prosecutor I have huge stick and the school has a carrot, so let’s work in tandem on our collective objective goal to get kids in school,” she said in her speech.

The clip has already reignited criticism of Harris from some child advocates and others who feel that law enforcement is overly involved in schools, especially in low-income communities where children and parents may already feel they have been disproportionately or unfairly targeted by police.

State and local officials whose job it is to focus on school attendance say Harris, as much as any other state leader, played a significant role in raising awareness of chronic absenteeism. Years after she first called attention to it, absenteeism rates are now one of the main measures of success on the California School Dashboard, the state’s online report card on how schools and districts are doing on a range of indicators.

“Her work really created a statewide focus on this issue,” said Amir Alavi, a deputy district attorney in Riverside county who serves on the State Attendance Review Board, which is responsible for establishing school attendance policies and taking action against habitually truant students.

“To say she had a strong impact on the field is not a controversial statement, if anything it’s an understatement,” Alavi added.

What was and remains controversial in some circles, however, is Harris’s sponsorship of a bill in 2010, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law, that allowed police to file misdemeanor charges against parents of habitually truant students. Under the law, parents can be fined as much as $2,000 and serve up to a year in jail.

While no statewide tally of parents who have been prosecuted for their truant children exists, officials agree it is a very small number. Harris said she prosecuted just 25 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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