County truancy funding laid over

The Winnebago County Board laid over a resolution during its Sept. meeting that would have authorized the county’s share of funding for the City of Rockford’s planned truancy hearing department. Public Safety Committee chairman Rick Pollack (R-13) requested the proposed legislation be revisited at the next board meeting.

Pollack said, after the meeting, committee members were still faced with unanswered questions about the legality of fining minors, homeschoolers and funding issues.

“There were people who were uninformed,” he said.

According to Pollack, that stemmed from the lack of communication between his subcommittee and the City of Rockford. He said he believed the city should have communicated more clearly about what he termed an “unfunded mandate.”

Pollack said communication at the county level could have been better, noting that Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen and Deputy County Administrator Earl Dotson Jr. took the lead on the issue. He said it should have come to the subcommittee first.

But he stressed dealing with the truancy issue is “worth a try.” Pollack noted about 3,000 Winnebago County students are truant each year.

Christiansen said county officials haven’t ignored the truancy issue: “We’ve been talking about (truancy) for some time.”

He said the county is willing to pass a county wide truancy ordinance, since students could congregate in places like Cherry Vale and Machesney Park malls. Depending on the case load, Christiansen said it could cost the county in excess of $50,000 a year.

Rockford Public Schools District 205 pledged $100,000 toward establishing the department, according to City of Rockford Education and Lifelong Learning Director Adam Smith. Smith shared the information with Rockford City Council Codes and Regulations Committee members during their Aug. 14 meeting.

Smith also said United Way allocated $80,000 to pay a hearing officer. Smith also noted the program will get $100,000 from State Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67), which is half of a $200,000 grant that the Boone/Winnebago Regional Office of Education received.

National Public Radio reported that almost one-third of U.S. high school students do not graduate, and they only make 65 percent of the salaries of those who do graduate.

From the Sept. 13-19, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!