In Philadelphia, back to school or pay $25 fine

    Philadelphia hands out plenty of truancy tickets. The office that handles appeals, says they’re not intended as a money-maker.

    When Philadelphia students don’t show up for school this year, their parents may receive something unexpected: a $25 ticket.

    The tickets may serve as a wake-up call for parents whose kids are playing hooky.

    But they make Gerald Wright, a founder of Parents United for Public Education, think about how Philadelphia schools needs to do a better job of reaching out to struggling fourth and fifth graders. Wright says that’s usually young enough to reach students before they begin skipping class.

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    “As the child gets older and you’re getting to the high school ages – which is where we see kids dropping out – children are beginning to make some decisions good or for bad, that the parents don’t have complete control over. So when you fine the parent – and particularly poor parents – are we solving the problem or are we looking for the quick fix?”

    Wright says some Philadelphia schools have high academic achievement, devoted faculty, school pride, and extracurricular activities for students. He says the district needs to figure out how to copy that success in other schools.

    Paula Weiss is Executive Director of the office of administrative review in Philadelphia’s finance department. That’s the office that handles appeals for truancy tickets.

    “The purpose of the ticket is to really provide notification to parents that they may be unaware that their student is not in school on a given day when they should be in school. So although the ticket will be issued based on finding a students somewhere where they’re not supposed to be, the responsible party will be the parent and the parent will receive the notification.”

    Each year, the Philadelphia School District, the Family Court and the Department of Human Services spend about $15 million on truancy prevention.

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