Truancy and Non-Attendance in the Chicago Schools
Chapter 17: The Truancy Problem in the Chicago Suburbs and in Other Parts of Illinois
Edith Abbott and Sophonisba P. Breckinridge
The services of the Department of Compulsory Education and the benefits of the Parental School are enjoyed only by the children of Chicago. Outside of Chicago, but within Cook County and therefore within the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court, there are 175 elementary-school districts. These districts may be divided into two groups. There are, first, those districts that are really rural in character; for example, 101 districts have the typical one-room, one-teacher rural school; 28 have 2 teachers each; 9 have 3, and 5 have 4 teachers each. Then, there are those districts that are suburban rather than rural; there are 32 of these. They employ all the way from 5 to 117 teachers and maintain modern graded schools.
In all these districts, just as in the cities, the education authorities are required by statute to appoint someone to act as a truant officer whose duty it shall be to return children to school and to prosecute recalcitrant parents. These districts are not, however, required to establish parental or truant schools, and in no one of the suburban towns is there a parental school. The children in these districts are in fact in the same plight, so far as institutional provision is concerned, in which Chicago boys were before the establishment of the Chicago Parental School in 1902 and in which the girls and all fourteen-to-sixteen-year-old Chicago children are now; and therefore no children from these districts. are brought as truants before the Juvenile Court under the compulsory school law. Public
(246) attention has been called to the needs of these children more than once. In 1909, for example, the chief probation officer of the juvenile Court said in his annual report:
I am again forced to call attention to the truant situation in the suburban districts. Sonic time ago four boys were brought into the juvenile Court, unable to read and write. Their respective ages were eleven, twelve, thirteen and fifteen years. That School Board like most school boards of suburban towns of Cook County employs no truant officers, and yet section 3 of An Act to Promote Attendance at School and to Prevent Truancy in effect July 1, 1907, plainly states: "The Board of Education in cities, towns, and villages shall appoint [not may appoint] at the time of appointment or election of teachers each year one or more truant officers whose duty it shall be to report all violations of this act to said Board of Education and to enter complaint against and prosecute all persons who shall appear to be guilty of such violations." From the field of truants come many delinquents. Can we, as citizens, say we have done our full duty until we do what we can under the law to lessen the number of truants ?Following this report of the need of work among the truant and delinquent children in the outlying towns, the Probation Department of the juvenile Court began to do more work in those portions of the county lying outside the Chicago limits. And in 1912, the chief probation officer reported with special reference to one suburb as follows:
The efficiency of the Probation Work in Cook County outside of Chicago was increased by the purchase of a motor cycle. One of the gratifying pieces of work done by the motor-cycle officer was in stopping truancy in West Hammond in the spring of the year when so many of the children were in the habit of playing truant to work on the farms. This was done by a good deal of visiting to the public and parochial schools, to the farmers and to the parents of the children, and when necessary by prosecuting the parents in the West Hammond courts. Although this work was very satisfactory, the Chief Probation Officer feels that it should be taken care of by the truant officers of the local Boards of Education outside Chicago.
It was, unfortunately, not practicable for us to undertake a study of the compulsory education situation in all the outlying parts of Cook County, although it was believed such a study would be of great interest and importance. But an investigation of conditions in the suburban as distinct from the rural districts seemed to be possible, and was accordingly undertaken.
With the purpose, then, of ascertaining the extent and character of the truancy problem in the communities near Chicago, an effort was made to learn the conditions prevailing in the thirty-three suburban centers in Cook County in which there were graded schools. In those communities in which there was a superintendent of schools, he was interviewed. Otherwise the information was obtained from the principals of the various schools. These communities, in which there were in all 95 schools, may be classified in four groups: (1) 15 were purely residential; (2) 11 had manufacturing and laboring populations, one of these having as many as ten large industries; (3) 4 were entirely agricultural; (4) 3 had a mixture of laboring and agricultural residents. In one town in the last group, for example, there were two factories employing 200 men each, and here the recently arrived immigrants worked, while the majority of the population, who were farmers, were of old German stock. Only 9 of these 33 communities had a predominantly native American population, so that some of the so-called "residential towns" had a large immigrant element. The other communities had for the most part populations of German, Dutch, or Scandinavian descent, with perhaps a small colony or a few scattered families of recent immigrants. There were only 6 communities with a large population of recent immigrants from Southeastern Europe.
The number of schools in any one community varies from one to ten. The number of children enrolled in school in the different communities varies from about one hundred to four
(248) thousand. Nine of the towns, three of which were residential and six of which were manufacturing suburbs, have over one thousand pupils enrolled in school.
The schools in the different towns vary widely in character, from those that are saved from being old-fashioned country schools only by being graded to those that have model equipment, a well-trained staff of teachers, and various modifications of the most modern methods of teaching. These differences expressed themselves in the buildings as well as in equipment. The picture of one of the schoolhouses, especially badly planned, has been used for years by the county superintendent as a horrible example showing what not to build. This particular schoolhouse was put up by a school board composed of farmers who knew nothing about proper school buildings, but its defects have been in some measure overcome since some intelligent women have become members of the board. In spite of improvements, however, the school still remains a model warning. In contrast to this situation, another suburb has a group of good school buildings with excellent playgrounds recently equipped and adapted for use after school hours. The same variation is shown in the manual-training equipment and instruction. Twenty-one schools have manual training in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, with special teachers and good equipment, and of these, five have handwork in all the other grades as well; three have handwork of some kind in a few grades as, for example, basket-making, or leather work before Christmas time, or a little pottery work; and nine have no manual training nor handwork of any kind. Several of the principals expressed their disapproval of these so-called "frills"; one, for example, whose school had a very superior equipment, said that the more he had the less he liked it, and that basket-making, paper-rolling, and even bookbinding had no place in the public schools. A superintendent said that he did not believe in putting such things in just because other
(249) schools were doing it. Nevertheless, the majority of those who have no provision for work of this kind spoke of the lack with regret.
In none of the schools is there work that is really vocational. A few of the principals think that their domestic science and cooking might well be called vocational, since it does fit some of the pupils for wage-earning; and two principals claimed that their manual-training work was "pre-vocational," because it gave the boys a good knowledge of the use of tools, which helped them to know what they could do best. One superintendent reported that he was doing some personal vocational work with the boys who have to work outside of school hours, and with those who must leave school at the minimum age in order to work. These boys are placed with the business men of the town through the superintendent's efforts and are supervised so far as is possible.
With this general view of the communities in mind, the truancy situation in the suburbs may be described as follows: (1) in ten towns the truancy problem is present and recognized, and adequate provision is made for handling it; (2) in three towns the problem is present and recognized, but the provisions for handling it are inadequate; (3) in fourteen towns the problem is small or totally absent, but a truant officer has been appointed in compliance with the law, (4) in two towns the problem is present but unrecognized by the school authorities who have made no provision for dealing with it; (5) in four towns there is no problem-no truant officer is needed and none has been provided.
The general method of dealing with truants in the first group of towns is as follows. '!'he superintendent's secretary collects from the teachers, either personally in the main building or by telephone from the other schools, the names of pupils whose absences the teacher thinks should be investigated. These names are telephoned to the truant officer, who does not
(250) start out on his rounds until he has a report from each school. In one of the larger towns, where the truant officer gives full time to the work, he visits the child's home on the first day of absence, unless a note of excuse was brought on the preceding day. Eight of the towns in this group have truant officers who are also probation officers of the juvenile Court, and of the other two, one is a town in which the chief of police acts also as a truant officer, and in the other the truant officer has no other employment. Three towns which are very near to each other have the same truant officer who is also a probation officer. Two of these towns are in the same district and have had this same officer for some time, while the third town has recently begun to employ him to handle the cases from their school, paying him a two-dollar fee for each case on which he makes a report. This arrangement has been found to be very satisfactory, as their problem is small at present, and the truant officer's familiarity with the whole district helps to make his work effective.
In two of the three towns in the next group the school janitors are the truant officers and have proved most unsatisfactory. In the third town, with a large immigrant population, the truant officer is the chief of police, whose duties take him out of town so frequently that a boy may stay out of school and return before the truant officer gets the case. In all these cases the superintendent or principal has practically assumed the responsibility of investigating the causes of absences and returning the child to school.
In the third group of towns, those in which there is a truant officer provided although there is little truancy, the principal or superintendent notifies the truant officer when his services are needed, and on the whole he is kept sufficiently busy. When the daily attendance is taken in the morning, any suspicious absences are reported to the principal, who in turn reports to the truant officer. If it is a case in which the parent does not
(251) know of the child's absence, the child is usually returned by the parent at once; and if it is the fault of the parents, the law is explained and the principal's intention to enforce it is made clear, which is usually sufficient.
The three groups of towns in which there is some provision for handling truancy include twenty-seven of the thirty-three suburbs which were visited. It is of importance, however, to note that only four of the twenty-seven truant officers employed by these towns give their full time to the work, while the other twenty-three officers have other occupations and give only as much time as the conditions seem to require. Their other occupations were varied: six held the position of chief of police or village marshal; three were railroad baggage clerks; one a post-office clerk; two were housekeepers; five were janitors; one a paper-hanger; one a gymnasium assistant; one a city superintendent of buildings; one a merchant; one a school principal and one a superintendent. In one town which has four schools the principal of each is appointed truant officer. The superintendent explained that, if there were really a problem, this arrangement would be very cumbersome, but it is done merely to conform to statutory requirements.
In the fourth group are two towns in which the services of truant officers are obviously needed, but the school authorities profess to think conditions are satisfactory. In one town, the superintendent understands that there are some ten or twelve children who have never been in school and are just running the streets, "growing up like Topsy," as he expressed it. A truant officer could, however, be of no service because, on account of the political situation no attempt to get the children into school would succeed. The superintendent explained that the political situation made things difficult, that the board would not back him in getting these children into school, and that according to the law he could not do it without the board's support. Because of what he called "that curse of the school
(252) districts in the country," the required annual school elections with the resulting lack of permanency of the teachers, the superintendent could not afford to antagonize the school board who elected him, and the people who elect the school board. The people would resent an attempt to force the children into school, and the results might be disastrous to the teaching force if he asked to have it done.
In the other town, the principal considers truancy a real menace and would like to have a truant officer, but feels that it would be unsatisfactory, as the officer would undoubtedly be controlled by "local politics." He asked the investigator not to mention to any of the teachers why she had come to the school as he wished to give them the impression that she was a county truant officer, " which might tone up the school attendance a little." Here the problem is one of irregularity of attendance because of poverty or indifference on the part of the parents, rather than from wilful or incorrigible conduct on the part of the children.
In the last group of towns the school principals thought that truant officers would be superfluous. One of these principals stated that he understood that the compulsory education law made the appointing of a truant officer mandatory, but as there never had been the slightest need for one, none had been appointed. In another town, the schoolhouse has become very small-much too small-and a new one is being built. The principal said that his problem was to find room for those who come, and since "every last child in town comes," no attendance officer seemed necessary.
Since records of the number of truant children are kept in seven towns only, it is impossible to discuss the extent of truancy and non-attendance in the suburbs. In six of these seven towns the truant officer was also probation officer and the records were kept in connection with the court work. In the seventh town the truant officer was chief of police. In none
(253) of these cases were the records in the hands of the principal or superintendent. One school has just started a method of keeping the records that will be valuable in the future. In this case teachers send to the superintendent the names of children whose absences should be investigated. A card is made out and sent to the truant officer. He investigates, takes the necessary action in behalf of the child, fills out the rest of the card, and returns it to the superintendent for filing. The principals of two other schools had no methods of keeping records that would show the number of truancies. One of these declared that they kept no record of truancy, as they tried to forget it. He has, however, a set of record cards in his office, one for each pupil, with space for ten years' entries, and every time the pupil is sent to him for any reason an entry is made on the card, and this forms a complete record of his interviews with that child. In another town the causes of absences are carefully recorded by the superintendent as a precaution against contagious diseases.
But in the majority of cases the daily attendance books are the only records available. These books usually show the number of unexcused absences, although in most cases there is no record of the result of the officer's investigation or of whether or not he returned the child to school. Most of the principals replied in answer to a question regarding the number of cases of truancy in the school during a year as follows: "Not more than ten"; "About four"; "Five would cover it"; "Under ten"; "Perhaps twenty"; and so on. Accurate figures were obtained for three schools from truant officers who were probation officers as well.
In the suburbs, as in Chicago, the problem of truancy has several aspects. in these small towns as well as in the great neighboring city, non-attendance caused by children being kept at home to work is a greater evil than truancy. In the agricultural towns, boys are kept at home to work on the farms in the spring, and in the manufacturing towns girls and boys both are
(253) kept at home to help with the washing and the care of younger children, One principal had just reported to the truant officer a case of a twelve-year-old boy who had been out of school for several days. The principal had heard that he had gone off to work for his brother on a near-by farm. In another town, the greatest trouble comes once a month on "market day," when a great many farmers keep their children out of school. The superintendent was trying an arrangement that allows children who sell at the market to be excused for the latter half of the morning session on market day.
In sixteen towns the principals report that constant vigilance is needed to prevent parents from taking their children out of school before they reach working age. In two towns, this problem has been solved by persuading the most important of the local employers not to employ children until they have secured the proper papers. Two principals, however, report cases where boys, because of extreme poverty, have been taken out of school a few months before they reached fourteen, and in both cases this was sanctioned by the principal, although it was, of course, in open violation of the law.
In the suburbs, there are perhaps more of the old-fashioned cases of truancy than in Chicago. Six boys sometimes decide that it is a good day in the timber, or go out swimming in June, or go off to a baseball game in the next town, or, when there is an epidemic of measles, a few of the unafflicted ones stay out. Such cases as these are reported from the towns where there is either no truant officer or one who is seldom used, and the matter is treated very informally. In one case, for example, the village marshal is sent after truant boys and in the case of boys who went to the ball game, the superintendent reported that he had settled the difficulty by giving them "a sound thrashing."
The problem of children being kept out of school for lack of clothes is not recognized as serious. Fourteen principals
(255) reported that no cases have come to their notice, and sixteen principals said that the charitable organizations of the towns are efficient enough to handle such cases promptly. In six towns there are charity organization societies. In one of these the principal is president of the charity organization board , and in another the truant officer is a member of the board. In four towns, the churches and teachers combine to take care of cases of absence if due to lack of clothing; in one town there is a strong parent- teachers' association which provides for such cases; and in two others the woman's club does the work systematically. In one residential suburb a children's aid society and a visiting nurse provide such help as is needed, and in another suburb benevolent families are supposed to supply the needs. In still another town cases of poverty are referred to the outdoor relief authority. In this town books are supplied free when necessary from the funds paid to the township by non-resident pupils. In only three towns did the principal report that there was no way of providing for cases of children kept at home because of poverty.
In the outlying towns, as in the city, it has been found that one satisfactory method of getting children back into school, when they are out unnecessarily, is through prosecution or a threat to prosecute. Nine different school districts have prosecuted parents under the compulsory education law. All these cases were heard in the justice's court of the town, and in all cases the school authorities were successful. In only one instance was the fine more than $5 and costs, and in nearly all the cases the fine was suspended during the regular attendance of the child. The one exception to the $5 fine was one of $20, but this, too, was suspended. In six other towns the school authorities have threatened parents with prosecution, and found the threat entirely sufficient to bring the unruly parents to terms. The superintendent of schools in one town with a large immigrant population says that he does not prosecute as much as he
(256) might; that he feels that the money that would be required for fines is best left in the families, and that prosecution is a weapon more effective if used judiciously. He prosecutes when he thinks the prosecution will have an educational influence on a certain group of parents, and he finds it successful whenever used as a last resort. The school which has been mentioned before as having political difficulties in stopping truancy finds the prosecution of parents absolutely impossible, since it is feared that the usually numerous relatives and friends of the father prosecuted would form an alliance and elect some of their number to the board, and would either force the superintendent out or eliminate some of his best teachers!
The juvenile Court is resorted to largely by those sixteen schools that have either truant officers who are probation officers as well, or progressive principals. Some of the schools do not seem to realize that they can use the court. In fact, one principal, when the court was mentioned, remarked that his district was not within the city limits.
Most of the officers who have used the court say that they can usually deal with truancy cases themselves and prevent the truant from becoming delinquent, but when it is necessary to remove the child from the home because of extreme neglect, the child is brought into court as dependent. Since there is no parental school to which truant children from the suburban and rural districts can be committed, the greatest number of these truant children seem to have been sent to Glenwood, an institution for dependent boys, organized under the Industrial Schools Act.
Concerning the methods of ascertaining whether all children of school age are actually in school, no one of the principals interviewed was satisfied with the method he had worked out. Several arguments were offered, however, to show that in spite of the fact that the methods were unsatisfactory, the probability of there being any children unenrolled was small. The principal
(257) of one of the largest schools said that he had been in the habit of going to real estate men for the names of new families, but he always found that the truant officer already had the names of the children. Other principals offered such explanations as the following: "Policemen on beats report all new children." "Principal knows town so well that he feels sure it would be impossible for a family to escape his notice." Those towns that have efficient truant officers depend on them to search out new arrivals of school age; in three towns a school census is taken by the principal himself, but the majority of the towns feel that they can depend on the school children reporting new arrivals or on the fact that the town is so small that no child could grow to school age and not be known and no new families could come in without being noticed.
Strange as it may seem, however, after these expressions of confidence, fifteen of the principals said that they had found cases of children unenrolled who ought to have been in school. The principals in several of the residential suburbs explained that this had been due merely to delays connected with the adjustment of the family to its new surroundings. There was one case, however, of a boy who was run over by an automobile in Chicago, whose family kept him out of school six months while the case was being settled, although he seemed well enough to attend. This condition was corrected when the principal mailed them a private copy of the school law. Another case of an unenrolled child was reported by the father, who disapproved of the mother's teaching him at home. One principal complained of the influence of politics; he said he had heard that there were in the town some ten or twelve children who had never been in school, some Swedish, some Polish, some Italian, and a few Americans; but according to the principal there was nothing for him to do, since he considers it a school-board problem and the school board refuses to act.
Another principal states that very often families move out from Chicago because they wish to avoid sending their children to school. The families frequently manage to evade the teachers for two or three months, and their children are very irregular in attendance after being compelled to enter school. One principal said that he thought the presence of the parochial school in town made it hard to tell whether all the children were really in school or not. Parents sometimes claim that children are in the parochial school when in reality they are for the time being not in any school at all.
In one town with an excellent school system the local Parent Teachers' Association made a complete census of the mothers of the district a few years ago and continued systematically to add any new ones who moved into town. This association makes the enrolment of all children in school one of its special aims. One principal is trying to work out a better method of enforcing the compulsory law, and thinks that co-operation between the town authorities and the school on this point is essential. In one town which has a single large industry employing nearly all the wage-earners in the population a rather unique system of control has developed. The manager of the manufacturing plant is also president of the school board; and in his dual capacity of employer and school official, it is claimed that he is very effective in keeping watch on the increase in population and vigilantly enforcing the compulsory education law.
Undoubtedly these thirty-three towns, because of their proximity to Chicago, have felt the influence of city methods and are farther advanced than a corresponding number of towns in central or southern Illinois would be if a similar investigation could be carried on in these districts. Such a situation car, only be regarded as extremely unsatisfactory. State control over the local authorities, in this matter, must undoubtedly come about before the compulsory education law will really be enforced. In the matter of the enforcement of the factory acts and the child-labor law, state inspectors are provided in order that
(259) local influences shall not interfere with the operation of the law. Until some measure of state control is provided, the compulsory education law will remain a dead letter wherever the local authorities do not wish to provide for its enforcement.
In conclusion it may be said that the enforcement of the compulsory education law in the outlying towns in Cook County seems to depend entirely upon the intelligence, courage, and energy of the individual school officials. Some of these men take no interest in the question, and others do not know what should be done to correct unsatisfactory conditions that are known to exist.
The same thing is of course true of other portions of the state. It would have been interesting to make a study of truancy and the enforcement of the compulsory education law in all school districts in the state. And at the beginning of our investigation a letter was addressed to the state superintendent asking for information with regard to the appointment of truant officers and the enforcement of the attendance law throughout the state. The following extract from his courteous and optimistic reply is of interest:
Section 275, school law of 1909, provides that the board of education or the board of school directors, as the case may be, shall appoint at the time of the election of teachers, one or more truant officers whose duty it shall be to report all violation of the law and to enter a complaint against and prosecute all persons who shall appear to be guilty of such violation. So far as this office is advised truant officers are appointed in all or nearly all of the districts of this state. They are certainly appointed in the districts where their services are needed. No report is made of districts making or failing to make such appointments. I can say, however, that this law is being rigidly enforced -with splendid results. This office lend& all the assistance it can in this particular matter.
As no summary of the methods of enforcement in the various districts was to be obtained from the office of the state super-
(260) -intendent and as it was impracticable to make a study of conditions either in other cities or in rural districts, a letter was sent to the secretary of the board of education in each of the principal cities of the state and to the clerk of the court in each county, asking for information concerning the methods of preventing truancy and non-attendance. The letter inquired whether there was a juvenile court in the county, and, if so, to what extent it concerned itself with truancy, whether truant officers were appointed, and how; and to what extent truancy was dealt with in the schools.
Replies were received from each of the eleven cities in Illinois, not including Chicago, that had in 1910 a population of over 25,000 and from four other cities having a population of over 20,000. All these cities have truant officers, and in three of them there was more than one truant officer employed. In some of the cities, however, the officer gave only part time to this work. For example, in one city the functions of the truant officer are assigned to a city missionary. With very few exceptions, the letters which came, sometimes from the secretary of the board of education, sometimes from the superintendent, and sometimes from the truant officer himself, stated that the compulsory education law was well enforced and that there was very little difficulty in handling truancy cases. Such statements as the following were received: "The amount of truancy is very small, due to the official organization to prevent it and the interest of the children in the work of the school"; " Whenever a suspected case occurs, the officer is informed at once and it usually takes but a few minutes to find the absentee and to land him in the school room"; "By careful systematic work children are uniformly kept in school" , "It is our purpose to reduce truancy to a minimum and we are succeeding pretty well in bringing it about."
In one of the largest cities of the state, the officer reported that of 2,314 cases handled, only 58 proved to be truants. Her
(261) method of procedure was as follows: With few exceptions the cases of absentees were reached and investigated within twenty-four hours of the time they were reported. Sometimes it was longer before action could be taken, as the people might not be at home when the call was made. Where the officers were sure that the address was correct, a note was left for the parents. This often resulted in a speedy return of the child to its place in school; or the parents would come to the office to confer with the officials concerning the case. It had not been necessary to impose any fines during the year. An explanation of the law to the parents, "showing the harm they were doing to the school, and the disgrace they were bringing on themselves as violators of the law, and reasoning with them, would lead them to see the right and to do it." "In each instance," the officer said, " the requirements of the law have been fully met, without hardship to any of the parties concerned, and all have been left in a friendly attitude of co-operation for the future, which was a greater victory than a fine would have gained."
In another city where 1,567 cases were handled, 144 were truants. Here the truant officer, working in co-operation with the Humane Society, the Ladies' Aid Society, the factory inspector and the Health Department, did much work beside the investigation of the absences of children.In the community in which the truant officer is also city missionary there is a city policewoman who writes of the situation as follows:
'The work of the city missionary is under the philanthropic department of the Woman's Club, and was for five years combined with that of police matron in order to establish that much needed position. Now it is combined with the truant officer and the two kinds of duties will work very nicely together . . . . . We haven't got a juvenile Court in our county, but our County judge has the same privilege as a juvenile court, and we all co-operate in this work. Taking up the police work was a big help in this line. I look after
(262) repeaters and find out the cause; if it is defective eyes, or nose, or ear, or home environments, have the children attended to according to their needs. If the parents cannot afford it, we see that it is attended to, and here is where the doctors have always co-operated with us. While we have always done truant work, before, it was just where I ran across it in my policewoman work, or as city missionary.
In these three cities, at least, the truant officers are attempting a work much broader than the mere insistence that children should be at their places in school, and are making a real effort to get at the causes of truancy and non-attendance and to remove them.
Five of the cities reported that they had juvenile courts, which could be called upon to deal with " the bad cases of truancy." In one of the cities, the court is said to be "more for the purpose of scaring the parents and children than for taking any action." The truant officer in one city turns over cases which must be brought into court, to the probation officer. Truant children are said to be occasionally sent by the court to the reform schools at Geneva or St. Charles.
Since answers were received from only 26 of the 102 counties of Illinois, it is not possible to draw many general conclusions as to the methods of dealing with truancy in the state. Of the 26 counties reporting, 12 have truant officers in the towns. In other cases, truancy is dealt with by the superintendent of the school, or by some of the school authorities, and in one or two cases by the county probation officer. Four counties report that they have practically no problem of truancy; three others are dissatisfied with the enforcement of the law, but have found no effective way of bettering it. The, report from one of these counties is as follows: -Compulsory school laws not enforced to any great extent; superintendent of schools is trying to secure a truant officer for the schools of the county seat; attendance is not as regular as it should be." One county in the southern part of the state says that the law is not enforced to any extent,
(263) although "sometimes the janitor of the schoolhouse gets after truants and gives them a scare." Obviously, a state standardizing agency would uncover many districts in which the attendance at school of children within the ages prescribed by law could be made both more universal and more regular.
The possibilities of increased efficiency in a centralized agency are disclosed in the Report of the New York State Education Department for the Year 1912, in which it is pointed out that the power to withhold the allowance of the school fund from districts in which the child labor and school attendance laws are not enforced may be regarded as a powerful lever with which to raise the standard of their enforcement. For example, in seventeen districts, as much as one-half the school moneys apportioned in 1911 was withheld, and such pressure as that cannot long be withstood.