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New Report Criticizes Cost of Some Discipline Practices in Texas

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A new survey of 11 school districts in Texas finds that they spent close to $140 million on out-of-school suspensions and alternatives including referrals to disciplinary alternative education programs.

The tally was based on spending during the 2010-11 school year in the districts that, combined, compose about a quarter of the Lone Star State's student enrollment.

The report, from the social justice advocacy group Texas Appleseed, is the latest in long-running assault on school discipline policies that remove students from school.

"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," said Texas Appleseed Deputy Director Deborah Fowler in a statement Monday.

The group is encouraging districts to be more judicious when punishing students via out-of-school suspension to misbehavior that affects student safety. The tradeoff: an increase in the district's portion of state education funds, which are doled out based on average daily attendance, Texas Appleseed said.

In addition, the group suggested amending district codes of conduct to limit referrals to disciplinary alternative education programs. They should only be made when other forms of intervention haven't proven successful.

The report also notes that the 11 districts spend another $87 million on security, monitoring services, and campus policing. Texas Appleseed suggests targeting school policing at campuses where they are truly needed.

A final recommendation from the group? Providing additional training in effective classroom management to administration and staff at campuses that record large numbers of out-of-school suspensions and other out-of-school placements. The latest story in my "Rethinking Discipline" series tackles just that subject.

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