New Report Examines High Cost of School Discipline in Budget-Stressed Texas Districts

The Austin-based advocacy organization Texas Appleseed recently released a report examining the financial impact on several Texas school districts of using exclusionary discipline techniques, including expulsions, out-of-school suspensions and alternative education program referrals.

The findings in “Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts” stem from an evaluation of about 25 percent of the state’s 4 million public school students. According to researchers, the total “cost of discipline” for the 11 school districts studied resulted in a combined $140 million in expenditures from 2010 to 2011. The combined cost includes a number of factors, including the cost of operating alternative education campuses, security and monitoring expenses and overall lost state funding due to out-of-school suspensions.

Researchers said that budgetary constrictions - including a recent $5.4 billion cut to the state’s public education budget - means Texas school districts will have to be more strategic in selecting effective, evidence-based programs to improve student outcomes.

The report suggests that school districts seek out alternatives to exclusionary discipline techniques, instead limiting out-of-school suspensions to only “the most egregious acts of misbehavior,” promoting training for teachers to better manage classrooms, and making better evaluations of school policing, monitoring and security services. The authors of the report also recommend a special emphasis on evidence-based programming.

“Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Social and Emotional Learning and Restorative Justice are evidence-based, cost effective approaches shown to improve student behavior and academic success,” the report reads. “Given the poor outcomes and high costs associated with exclusionary discipline, it is critical that school districts implement alternatives that result in better student outcomes.”

Photo from the “Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts” report by Texas Appleseed