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School Suspensions & Expulsions: The tipping point to dropout, delinquency, and lifelong poverty

The recently released Appleseed report “Reclaiming Students,” found that tens of thousands of children are removed from school by “exclusionary” discipline annually. These students are disproportionately students of color and students from low-income homes. The report called exclusionary discipline practices “high-risk and high-cost approaches” that constitute “a tipping point leading toward dropout, delinquency, and lifelong poverty.”

While there are the obvious comparisons of what it costs to educate a Washington student enrolled in public school ($6,307 in state funding for 2010-11) and what it costs to educate an incarcerated student (between $8,833-$58,310 for 2011-12), there are also significant economic impact data that policymakers must consider.

During the 2009-10 school-year, roughly 800 students left school permanently due to a discipline incident.

But what if those 800 students stayed in school? What would be the impact on our state’s economy?

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, the economic impact would be noticeable. A thousand additional high school graduates would “support 80 new jobs in the state, increase the gross state product by $16 million, and pour an additional $1.2 million annually into state coffers” through the new graduates’ increased spending and investments.

Keeping kids who have been disciplined in school, instead of letting them drop out, also creates a “social savings” according to researchers at the University of California Berkeley. The savings is a result of crime reduction associated with high school completion. The researchers estimate that a one percent increase in male high school graduation rates would save $2,100 per additional graduate.

Tomorrow, the Senate Ways & Means Committee will hear SSB 5244 to transform school discipline. The policy case is clear: kids can’t learn if they aren’t in school. The League of Education Voters believes the economic impact on our state of keeping kids in school is equally clear.

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