Beginning in late winter or early spring, many schools and school districts begin setting budgets for the next school year. It can be a tricky process. There are numerous demands on school budgets, which can leave some areas thinly funded. Many school districts must shift budget monies around to cover the cost of programs mandated by their state or the federal government, most of which do not come with funding attached.
For those outside of the educational field, the subject of school budgets may seem insignificant in comparison to the larger societal picture. However, what happens in the educational realm impacts all areas of society. Employment rates, healthcare, social structure, the legal system – how schools allocate their funding affects all of these. Perhaps the biggest impact that schools have on society hinges on their suspension and dropout rates.
How School Suspensions Affect Social Structure
It’s been estimated that school suspensions cost the nation more than $35 billion every year. A school suspension may be the beginning of a downward trend for a student. Students who are suspended are ten times more likely to drop out of school completely, never earning a high school diploma.
Individuals who do not earn a high school diploma face numerous challenges over the course of their lives. They earn up to $200,000 less than a high school graduate and up to $1 million less than college graduates during their careers. This disparity in earnings is often illustrated by higher rates of drug use, incarceration, poverty, and health problems. Additionally, unemployed and underemployed individuals are less likely to own a home or invest in retirement accounts.
Make no mistake, there is a direct correlation between school suspensions and lifelong success or failure. A focus on positive behavior in the school setting may be the key to keeping students on track for completing their education.
Using PBIS to Improve Student Behavior
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is not a new concept. As part of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), PBIS has been part of the school vernacular since 1997. The practices used in PBIS are a powerful way to reduce school suspensions and set students on a path toward success.
Changing your school’s disciplinary focus can impact suspensions and dropout rates. Implementing PBIS allows educators to concentrate on the behaviors that make students successful in the long run and improves school climate.
This one schoolwide adjustment can dramatically change the educational experience, not only for students but for teachers and families, too. Equipping students with the tools they need to develop socially and emotionally will also help them academically.
PBIS is not an abandonment of discipline. It does not allow inappropriate behavior to reign. Schools that adopt a PBIS framework place their focus on the acknowledgment of positive behaviors and assist students in the development of these behaviors. Students who struggle in this regard receive encouragement and guidance, with a prescribed path for managing negative conduct. Suspensions and expulsions become a smaller part of the overall disciplinary picture.
An Investment Well Spent
Many school systems are reluctant, however, to make PBIS initiatives a line item in the district budget. They view the costs of implementation as an unnecessary expense that diminishes monies for mandated programs. What they fail to consider are the cost savings that result from reduced disciplinary processes.
Many of the expenses incurred in the disciplinary process are personnel costs. Office discipline referrals give teachers less time to teach and pull administrators away from other tasks. Sending students into an alternative learning environment increases the personnel costs for maintaining student/teacher ratios.
Although allocating part of a school budget for the implementation of schoolwide PBIS may seem like a luxury, the potential long-term savings are significant. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in PBIS resulted in $104.90 in savings, solely from the reduction of suspensions and, by extension, the reduction of dropouts.
Education shapes society in many ways, especially in the way it impacts individual success. Students who abandon their education are often unemployable. The social costs run deep. Can your school or district afford PBIS? Or, can you afford NOT to have it?