As a teacher of many years standing in Los Angeles city schools, I naturally try to follow public debate on educational issues. For some reason I never hear or see any reference to the incredible amount of money that is lost each year due to students failure to return books checked out to them each year. I have not researched the matter, but if the high school at which I teach is any criteria, the loss to the city, and on a bigger scale the state, is enormous. In the past school year alone, the students at my high school lost and failed to pay for books that totaled approximately $10,000 in value.
Legally schools have the right to collect money for lost or damaged books, but in reality our hands are tied because the means of collecting monies owed is very limited. Our school, like many others, has such a high drop-out and transiency rate that only 55% of an incoming 10th grade class will graduate three years later. As these youngsters drop out or leave the district, they often fail to return the books issued to them and when we try to reach their homes by phone or mail they have, in many cases, just disappeared or else simply ignore our request for payment. The only real weapon we have to force payment is to withhold the diploma until payment is made but if the student fails to graduate this device is meaningless.