By Bryan Caplan
How are compulsory attendance laws actually enforced? A preliminary search turned up some surprising claims, especially this:
Truancy charges can result in large fines, jail time, and a criminal record for students in Texas–one of
only two states (along with Wyoming) that prosecute truancy as a crime in adult courts. Adult courts do not provide
the same protections as civil juvenile courts, including a right to appointed counsel.
Texas adult courts pursued about 113,000 truancy cases against Texas children ages 12-17 in FY 2012–
more than double the number of truancy cases prosecuted that year in the other 49 states combined.
Dallas County operates the largest truancy court system in Texas. Almost three-quarters of the courts’
budget is supported by truancy fines assessed students and parents. In FY 2012, Dallas Country truancy courts
collected $2.9 million in fines, according to county reports.
Last year alone, Dallas County truancy courts prosecuted over 36,000 truancy cases–more than any other
Texas county and nearly three times more than Harris County, home to the state’s largest school district (Houston
Yes, these claims come from a legal complaint filed against some Texas school districts. But since these are narrowly legal claims rather than statistical inference, I’m inclined to trust them. Anyone know more? What’s going on in other states? Please show your work.