Resource | March 13, 2019

Funding Evidence-Based School Discipline Alternatives in California

More than 300 police chiefs, sheriffs, district attorneys and victim advocates from around California are pushing to expand statewide investments in evidence-based school discipline alternatives.

According to a new white paper, “Funding Evidence-Based School Discipline Alternatives in California,” California is making important investments in positive discipline models to help address the issues behind student misbehavior and keep kids in school, on track to graduate, and away from criminal involvement. Yet more support of suspension alternatives is needed to keep students in school and learning.

“As California’s suspension rates continue to drop, the state has the opportunity to build on the success of its current investments in positive school discipline,” said State Director Brian Lee. “What we’re finding is that teachers and administrators want to keep kids in school and learning but they need more support. Schools need increased funding to cover training on restorative practices, more support staff for targeted interventions, and implementation of social-emotional learning curricula.”

In California today, nearly 1 in 5 high school students does not graduate on time. Research shows that students who have been suspended or expelled are at greater risk of grade retention and dropout than their peers and are more likely to turn to crime. Data show that high school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested, and more than eight times as likely to be in jail or prison. Still, California schools issue more than 360,000 suspensions annually, yet fewer than 1 in 3 suspensions are for violence causing injury, drugs or weapons.

The members of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids applaud the shift in California away from zero tolerance policies and towards positive school discipline models, including Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), restorative practices (RP) and social-emotional learning (SEL). Research shows these alternatives can be effective: for example, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that PBIS saves up to $6.45 for every $1 invested and the SEL program Positive Action saves up to $31.57 for every $1 invested. These interventions are mainly supported by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), Proposition 47 (2014) K-12 funds, and two Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) funding streams.

The demand for more investments in discipline alternatives is high, with a large number of Proposition 47 K-12 applicants denied. There is also significant room for growth across the state: PBIS is only in a quarter of schools, SEL is only in 10-15% of schools, and many districts identified restorative practices as a gap in local MTSS assessments.

Fight Crime: Invest in Kids is calling for increased funding for discipline alternatives through LCFF, Proposition 47 K-12 funds, and both MTSS funding streams. It also wants to see a portion of Proposition 64’s cannabis tax revenues be directed towards alternatives to suspension, consistent with language from the initiative.

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  1. School Discipline


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