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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

If strike closes LA schools, it could be 'nail in the coffin'

A threatened strike by Los Angeles Unified's service workers -- custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and special-education aides -- could be a "disaster" for the huge district, writes Will Callan on The 74.

Enrollment is declining, "in part to exasperated parents fleeing the district," he writes. Absenteeism is high. Families "worry that a strike could be the 'nail in the coffin'" for the district.

Photo: Pexels/Pixabay

“I can absolutely tell you that one more major disruption like that, that’ll be it,” said Christie Pesicka, a parent advocate in the district. “Enrollment will plummet again.”

Even if students are enrolled, most public schools are funded based on average daily attendance. The kids have to show up. Increasingly, they're not.

Chronic absenteeism -- missing 10 percent or more of the school year -- has doubled since before the pandemic, estimates Hedy Chang, executive director of the nonprofit Attendance Works. Probably 16 million students, compared to 8 million in 2018-19, are chronically absent. In California, says Chang, "chronic absence went from 12.1 percent to actually around 30 percent of the student population."

In my hometown of Chicago, known for the high voting rate of the deceased, schools are masking truancy by counting truants as transfers, according to an inspector general's report, write Nader Issa and Sarah Karp in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Schools are penalized in the district's rating system for high absenteeism and dropout rates, so administrators have an incentive to fudge the numbers, said the report.

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