The ACLU has released a report that supports what many advocates have been saying for decades: The only real funding in our public schools is of police, not of our children’s education. California has some of the worst funding rates in the country as well as the largest population of children in public schools. The lack of sufficient funding has been one of the main underlying causes of teacher strikes for the past few decades. As recently as February, the Oakland teachers strike highlighted that the Oakland Unified School District had only 22 registered nurses to serve 37,000 kids. The ACLU’s study was compiled using the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection for 2015-16.
Some of the tragic numbers include:
- 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors.
- 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses.
- 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists.
- 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers.
- 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker.
EdSource spoke with Troy Flint, a spokesman for the California School Boards Association, who explained that, in regard to the police presence at schools, there’s a mixture of a lack of resources and of optics, saying, “they often default to really visible indicators (like police) to show their constituents that they are addressing the issue.”
The ACLU’s report suggests that, at a minimum, schools should have at least “one social worker for every 250 students, and at least one nurse and one psychologist for every 750 students and every 700 students respectively.” According to the ACLU report, only Montana, New Hampshire, and Vermont meet the suggested minimum recommendations for student-to-counselor ratios. No states meet the social-worker-to-student ratio; the national average is 2,106 students to every one social worker. The numbers for student-to-psychologist aren’t much better.
As with everything related to our society and the enforcement of control, there are profound racial components involved. African-American students are 3.5 times more likely than their white counterparts to be suspended or expelled. Creating an environment where representatives of law enforcement are the only adults—outside of unsupported classroom teachers—to handle any conflicts or crises that the student body may be dealing with just reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline.
Our incompetent billionaire in charge of education, Betsy DeVos, has promoted a more privatized charter-school agenda. It is less regulated and more likely to employ these kinds of uncreative handling of students’ social and mental health needs. We need new leadership and more money, as well as a cultural shift from punitive (and ultimately white supremacy-promoting) justice to restorative justice. Regardless of your political persuasion, you can at least see the benefit of treating kids like kids.