A program to keep kids in school that was cut from the county’s budget in 2008 — and was one of the centerpieces of District Attorney Joyce Dudley’s election platform when she ran in 2010 — is going to be restored. Since the program ended, truancy throughout the county increased by 48 percent, according to a report last year from the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury. There is also a correlation between days missed and test scores. Those numbers, according to 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who was one-half of a board subcommittee on the issue, “let us know we have a serious problem.”
So the subcommittee met with a group that included participants from the DA’s Office, Sheriff Bill Brown, and several superintendents from school districts around the county. The result will be a team effort to cut down on kids skipping school.
Schools will be in charge of their own truancy programs, while working with the District Attorney’s Office. The DA’s Office will provide districts with truancy information letters to be sent out at the beginning of the school year. The DA also will send letters to families of truants at various stages throughout the process. Should a group of standards (which include providing all school environment interventions possible) be met, the DA could then prosecute truancy cases referred by schools. The DA will have one full-time deputy DA, along with a half-time office worker, working on truancy countywide at a cost of $170,000 per year.