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Zak Kukoff

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Found Money

Posted: 01/10/11 12:00 PM ET

For the last few years, there's been an increasingly common complaint among schools: in the midst of a recession, the biggest source of school funding has begun to evaporate. Student truancies are depriving schools and districts of millions of dollars in funding every year -- but I want to offer a solution.

Last year, when I was a ninth grader, I decided to tackle the nationwide problem of truancy. After receiving first place at the Ventura County Science Fair, I enrolled my project, TruantToday (truanttoday.com) in the California State Science Fair. TruantToday sends realtime text and email messages to parents when students are absent, and helps bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the school system. By way of an example: Oak Park Unified School District, which has about 4,000 students, loses over $700,000 per year.

Besides just bringing funding back into the school, TruantToday will also help to lower crime. LAUSD and LAPD teamed up to do a student recovery day, in which they rounded up all of the truant students in LAUSD and brought them back to school. On that one day alone, shoplifting plummeted 82 percent. In addition, the Justice Department released a study drawing a conclusive link between truancy and harmful behaviors later in life (i.e. -- gang membership, drug use, and teenage pregnancy).

Before the California State Science Fair, I tested TruantToday at a public high school in Staten Island, N.Y. The results were amazing: 50 percent of my chronically-truant student test group (or, students that miss more school than they attend) returned to class the same day that the TruantToday messages were sent out. In addition, 75 percent of students in the TruantToday test group improved their attendance during the pilot period. I ended up receiving 5th place at the state level.

After the science fair, I wanted to see TruantToday implemented in as many schools as possible--all for free. If you work at a school, are a parent of a student at a school, or are otherwise involved with a school, regardless of whether you have a truancy "problem," send me an email: zak [at] truanttoday.com. I want to help you eradicate truancy and boost your school's budget problem, all with a product that's been proven to work.

 

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