Research and Reports
If states are to address truancy problems adequately and provide more flexibility in education with greater choice for parents, compulsory-education laws must be overhauled, argues a new report from the Education Commission of the States.
The report analyzes compulsory-education laws in the 50 states and five territories and includes infor-mation from interviews with some 120 education leaders in 15 states.
The report, which was written by Patricia Lines, the director of the Law and Education Center at ecs, says that enforcement efforts are aimed at parents choosing home instruction or fundamentalist Christian schools, rather than at truants, although the laws were intended originally to prevent truancy. (See Commentary on page 24.)
The report says that while few officials believe that fines and/or jail sentences are effective deterrents to truancy, most states deal with violators of compulsory-education laws6through these measures.
According to the report, jailing a parent for failing to meet the law's requirements "runs the danger of injuring the one to be protected--the child." It notes that state officials believe student expulsion is "equally futile."
The most effective ways of dealing with truancy, the report said, include student and family counseling and alternative-education programs specially tailored to the characteristics of "at-risk" students.
The report, "Compulsory Education Laws and their Impact on Public and Private Education," is available for $12 from the Education Commission of the States, Distribution Center, 1860 Lincoln St., Suite 300, Denver, Colo. 80295.