Success at fighting truancy to cost county

Published: Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007 12:00 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE - DeKalb County Assistant Regional Superintendent of Education Tatia Beckwith is proud to say the truancy rate in DeKalb County is low. About 1.5 percent, or 267 of DeKalb County's 17,550 public school students, are chronic truants. But when it comes to combating truancy, the county may become a victim of its own success. Beckwith said a new state formula for funding truancy intervention will be based on an area's number of chronic truants and poverty level, both of which are low in DeKalb County. &#8220Truancy is less prevalent here, maybe because of the truancy prevention or the schools are better,” she said. &#8220We expect to take gradual cuts.” Every three years the regional superintendent's office applies for a grant to the Illinois State Board of Education to fund its DeKalb County Truancy Intervention Program. This year's budget was $119,000, which provides funding for three outreach workers. Beckwith said she expects the grant next year will be 10 percent less. A child is considered a chronic truant if he has missed 18 days in 180 school days. But the regional office of education's DeKalb County Truancy Intervention Program, DCTIP, intervenes after nine unexcused absences in 180 days, Beckwith said. &#8220An outreach worker visits the school and parents,” she said. After 18 unexcused absences and a failed intervention, the family is referred to court. Only about 8 percent, or 21, of the current 267 open truancy cases have been referred to court, she said. Students in eighth grade through 11th grade are the most likely to be truant. &#8220There's a lot of different reasons (for truancy),” Beckwith said. &#8220Usually the student doesn't feel connected with school. We help with that. Sometimes it's the parenting. Some parents don't see attendance as (being as) important as we do. But a lot of times truancy isn't the only issue (at home).” The office of education works with police, the school district and the court system to help students stay in school. &#8220Some people just don't' realize (that) when their child is out of school, they're breaking the law,” Beckwith said. Because of expected funding cuts, the office wants to make sure it is spreading the word about truancy at kindergarten and freshman registration open houses. The office is also working with DeKalb High School and Sycamore High School to provide credit recovery programs for students who are short on credits. Students who are not keeping up with their credits are likely to be truant because they are not doing well academically, she said. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at

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