Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is one giant bag of contradictions, or political pandering, whichever you prefer. She's suddenly a gun owner despite years of attacking the Second Amendment and calling for stricter gun control laws. Now she's backpedaling on another issue: truancy laws.
While she was California's Attorney General, Harris pushed for multiple bills to crack down on truancy.
“As the chief law enforcement officer of the state, I’ve decided to make this a priority, because it is the law of California” that children attend school, Harris said when the bill was being introduced back in 2014. “Lacking an education, these children are more likely to end up unemployed and at risk of becoming involved in crime."
Under the law, school districts were required to submit a count of how many students were truant each year and the reasons associated with their absence. Boards were established to work with families to get kids to school and, as a last resort, parents would be taken to court over the truancies.
Harris' reasoning for pushing the truancy law: those who are educated are less likely to commit crime. She'd rather see that money spent on education than the criminal system.
"A child going without an education is tantamount to a crime...Very little that happens in our society in terms of the systems we see in government is a surprise," Harris said back in 2014. "We act like it's a surprise, but it's not. Almost all of it is predictable. Instead of being reactive, this data will allow us to be preventive."
Now that she's running for president, she can't quite make up her mind about where she stands on the issue. On one hand, she's touting her record on her campaign website:
Kamala has worked intensively to protect children and students. She established California’s Bureau of Children’s Justice and fought to reduce elementary school truancy so that every child can exercise his or her right to an education. As Attorney General, Harris successfully sued predatory for-profit colleges that scammed students and veterans.
And in her autobiography, The Truths We Hold, released a few months ago, she talked about why she wanted to tackle the issue (page 121):
Instituting A Statewide Plan On Truancy Was Part Of The Reason I’d Run For The Office In The First Place.
When I first started about attorney general, I told my executive team that I wanted to make elementary school truancy a top priority for my office. Those who didn’t know me must have thought I was joking. But those who had been with me for a while knew I wasn’t messing around. Indeed, instituting a statewide policy on truancy was part of the reason I’d run for the office in the first place.
During an interview on the "Pod Save America" podcast, Harris said she "regrets" what came of California's truancy law.
"When I was DA, we never sent a parent to jail," Harris said.
According to Harris, she analyzed data to see who homicide victims under 25 were and 90 percent were high school dropouts.
"When I went to the school district, I learned that up to 40 percent of the chronically and habitually truant students were elementary school students missing 50, 60, up to 80 days a year of a 180-day school year," Harris said.
She said the "system was failing the students" but the "services" she implemented increased school attendance by 30 percent and that the California penal code now says that a student who misses 10 percent or more of the school year is considered truant.
Harris said the "unintended consequences" were parents being jailed, something she regrets.
“My regret is that I have now heard stories where in some jurisdictions, DAs have criminalized the parents. And I regret that that has happened and the thought that anything that I did could have led to that, because that certainly was not the intention, never was the intention,” she said.
Sen. @KamalaHarris on the truancy law she championed as Attorney General that punishes parents if their kids miss too much school.— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) April 17, 2019
Full interview airs tonight: https://t.co/UJ9G9AzXdD pic.twitter.com/EOtCiKHXm7