Truancy is a major problem for Rockford schools, but there has been progress in reducing the city's truancy rate and you might be surprised just where the efforts are headed. Parents of children nine years old and younger faced truancy sentencing Wednesday.
Of the 1900 Rockford students ticketed for truancy since January, almost 400 are younger than ten. City leaders say that's a troubling way to start an education and now they're doing something about it.
When kids that young aren't going to school, education leaders say you have to look to the parents. Parents face the punishment for not sending their nine year olds and younger to school, where older students face the music themselves in truancy court.
Punishments can range from 25 to 50 dollar fines, to public service or anti-truancy workshops that erase the charges. Parents inside the courthouse are divided over whether they think the system is a good one.
"Its a good thing, but like I said, I'm kind of in between because there are sometimes reasons parents cant get their kids to school," says truancy court parent Connie Williams.
"I think its balogna, to be honest with you, I think its garbage. I can't see an eight year old going out skipping school and I always make sure to call in," says truancy court parent Stacy Ewbank.
Adam Smith, Rockford's Director of Education and Lifelong Learning says parents have the chance to appeal the case if they think their child has been wrongfully cited.
Overall Smith was very pleased with the cases he saw in the courtroom Wednesday night. He spoke of about one family whose kids had 23 unexcused absenses before they got a citation in February, since then they have only missed one day.
Since the beginning of Rockford's truancy court in January, the city's truancy rate is down to 6.5 percent. It was at an alarming rate of 9.6 percent in 2006. Although the numbers are improving, Rockford is still well above the state average of 2.2 percent.