But even more disturbing was the amount that 11 school districts serving a quarter of the school-age population spent on disciplinary measures and security.
The group Texas Appleseed took a look at the ways in which we are turning our schools into prison pipelines for those with disciplinary problems. In an era in which funding is at a premium it just doesn't make sense to waste money on suspension programs and the like. It certainly makes little sense to fund fully staffed school district police departments when districts are laying off teachers and not filling vacancies.
"We recognize that many Texas school districts are struggling as a result of the $5.4 billion cut in state funding for public education approved last year to help address a state budget shortfall," the group's Deputy Director Deborah Fowler said. "We are releasing this report, not to point a finger at spending in the surveyed school districts, but to open a dialogue with schools about different approaches to student discipline that are more effective and less costly to implement."
The schools surveyed spent about $140 million in the 2010-11 school year on out-of-school suspensions, referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs and discretionary expulsions to Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs. They also spent $87 million on security, monitoring services and campus policing, according to the group.Suspending students from school and assigning them to so-called alternative schools only serves to make those students more of a risk to drop out before graduating.
Somewhere along the line we have completely lost sight of what public education is all about. In the rush to rank schools based on test scores, we have introduced programs that marginalize students who might not score as high as school administrators might wish. Those students who drop out will not be able to get jobs that pay a living wage and will either subsist on government handouts or take up a life of crime.
Not that state leaders care. What happens five or ten years down the line isn't their concern. Those are problems that can always be pawned off on someone else. With our short election cycle the only things state legislators are interested in is telling their constituents that they didn't vote to raise taxes.
Click here to read Texas Appleseed's report.