CHICAGO - Students packed Chicago Public Schools headquarters to deliver a report on school discipline policies that contends the district spends more than 14 times as much on school security as it does on student counseling.
The report, produced by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), a minority student-led “education justice” advocacy group, claims that CPS’ approach to discipline and disproportionate security and guidance budgets hurts graduation rates and deprives the cash-strapped district of revenue.
VOYCE’s report, “Failed Policies, Broken Futures: The True Cost of Zero Tolerance,” illustrates the true impact that harsh discipline policies have had on the educational experiences of CPS students, including the following:
Harsh discipline policies have been highly overused in CPS, keeping students out of valuable learning time, decreasing students’ chances of graduating, and costing the city millions of dollars.
- In 2009, there were 4,597 school-based arrests of CPS students age 16 and younger. 78% were for minor offenses.
- Students who have been arrested are 50% more likely to drop out.
- Based on the cost of each lost graduate, the report predicts that CPS's school-based arrests in 2009 alone will cost Chicago taxpayers around $240 million in long-term costs. Simply cutting the annual number of arrests in half would result in $120 million in long-term economic benefits to the city per year.
CPS’s overuse of harsh discipline policies has cost the city millions of dollars and has diverted funds from more effective and proven approaches to school safety, such as guidance counseling, mental health supports, and peer mentoring.
- Last year, the budget of the Office of Safety and Security was 48 times larger than the budget of the Office of Student Support and Engagement, and 84 times larger than the budget of the Office of Teaching and Learning.
- Last year, CPS allocated just $3.5 million towards school-based college and career coaches, and $51.4 million towards school-based security guards.
"Everyone says there's violence and students aren't learning, but that's because our education is being taken away by unnecessary discipline measures," said Pamela Lewis, a senior at Gage Park High School. "You get suspended for being three minutes late to class or having your cell phone out. You get arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for expressing an opinion to police in the school. It makes me feel like they're limiting our education."
At the press conference, youth speakers described the key findings of the report and called for a major re-write to the Student Code of Conduct, greater transparency on how disciplinary actions are used in the schools, and investments in prevention-based strategies.
With CPS having convened a panel of outside experts to audit CPS’s approach to teaching and learning and make recommendations about the allocation of resources, speakers from VOYCE, Advancement Project and the Chicago Teachers Union used this original research to make a case for smarter investments and an end to harsh discipline, and to demand a meeting with CEO Brizard and Chief Education Officer Donoso within the next month to present their proposals. “These are common sense approaches to a single truth,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, “which is that it takes caring adults and a strong system of student supports to make our schools safe. CPS spending priorities should reflect that.”