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California school attendance may drop in drought

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Rural California schools expect to see attendance drop as the drought worsens and families leave the state's agricultural region in search of work elsewhere.

But Tom Torlakson, the state's superintendent of public education, toured the Central Valley, vowing not to let the drought hurt schools that receive money based on the number of students in class each day.

In a visit this week to Bakersfield, Fresno, Firebaugh and Merced _ all farming communities at the epicenter of California's crisis _ Torlakson said he will use his powers under the governor's drought declaration to minimize the financial pain schools feel.

Immediate signs of a drought are low reservoirs, rising wildfire risk and higher food prices, but Torlakson said the drought has a further reach.

“One of the less obvious impacts is happening every day in our classrooms, where empty desks reflect children whose families could no longer find work on the farms and ranches of the Central Valley,” Torlakson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Officials can't predict how many fewer students the schools will have. California's superintendent said he will also make sure schools have money to feed hungry students.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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