If not in school, a young person may be learning something — but it’s not likely to be an approved subject, and it’s not likely to be the sort of thing that is helpful in that young person’s life.

That’s why truancy is such a big problem for the future of Baton Rouge and in Louisiana generally, and why we welcome new initiatives to get children back into regular school attendance.

The unused downtown campus of the School for the Visually Impaired has been the focus of talks about providing a “one-stop-shop” for anti-truancy efforts, and the various agencies involved in the process appear near to getting all the proper approvals for its use, and funding to get it started.

Four local government agencies — the city-parish, the district attorney, the sheriff and the School Board will contribute funding for operations for the next three years.

We commend all concerned for their efforts in this realm and hope that this new initiative will bear fruit.

Jennie Ponder of the parish Truancy Assessment and Service Center said the new facility can put under one roof those who can help a family get with the school attendance program. “By making it easier, I think it will be more appealing to parents,” Ponder said. “It won’t be as frustrating for them to get help.”

Any facility is only as good as its permanent support. It is all too easy to open a building but fail to provide the staff and other resources to make it work. And while many families will be eager to get their children back in school where they belong, some are going to require hand-holding or more intense interventions; poverty undermines family structures in ways most of us who are better off can hardly comprehend.

Education remains a labor-intensive business. It requires operating money that will be needed from taxpayers for the bulk of costs at the new center.

The payoff for society is substantial. A child in school not only is far less likely to get in trouble as a youth, but also has a brighter future as a productive member of society.

Curbing truancy isn’t going to be easy. We hope the new center is a big step toward progress on this front.