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Midwest Democracy | KC Council committee again puts anti-truancy effort on hold

One month after it was put on hold, a proposed anti-truancy ordinance was delayed yet again on Wednesday by a City Council committee.

Councilman Scott Taylor argued against the delay, possibly until July, saying it reminded him of the way Congress drags its feet on deciding issues.

“This is one small thing this city can do to help the multiple school districts in the city,” he said.

But John Sharp, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, called it a prudent move, given concerns about the ordinance.

The loudest opposition has come from the parents of home-school children, who worry their kids will be picked up by police. Even broader opposition has centered on a provision that would impose $100 fines on parents whose children were chronically truant from school.

The Kansas City Public Schools had asked for the ordinance. Police, too, are in favor, saying kids who skip school are responsible for a sizable percentage of property crimes during school hours.

But Sharp said the city should wait to see if the district follows through on its promise to tighten its own efforts before the city acts. Budget cuts in 2010 eliminated the district’s anti-truancy program.

Since then, the district has lost state accreditation. One element of being reinstated is to boost attendance levels. So the district is seeking grants to revive the truancy prevention program. Another part of that effort is to set up two alternative schools aimed at students, among others, who skip school.

“We are monitoring attendance like never before,” district spokeswoman Eileen Houston-Stewart told the committee.

She called the anti-truancy ordinance “one more tool in the toolbox,” and said she hoped the city would pass it. But the district’s efforts aren’t dependent on it, she said.

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