Credit: Theresa Harrington/EdSource

Students in the class of 2014 who never graduated because they were suspended from school will cost California an estimated $2.7 billion in increased criminal justice costs and lower taxes paid over the course of their lifetimes, according to a new study from two University of California researchers.

The researchers said they hoped putting a financial cost on school discipline practices that send students out of school would mobilize communities to urge their districts to lower suspension rates.

“This puts the price tag on it,” said Russell Rumberger, director of University of California Santa Barbara’s California Dropout Research Project and co-author of the report with Daniel Losen, director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project at the Center for Civil Rights Remedies. “For people who say, ‘I don’t care about kids, jail ’em up or whatever,’ these are fiscal costs. It affects taxes, and your taxes are building more prisons.”

The $2.7 billion includes $809 million in direct taxpayer costs for criminal justice services as well as the reduced revenue that is generated by the lower wages earned by most who don’t hold a high school diploma. The total also includes $1.9 billion in social costs, such as reduced economic productivity and higher health care expenses. On average, a single person without a high school diploma will experience $579,820 in economic losses over a lifetime compared to a high school graduate, the report states.

The impact of school discipline practices on students, staff and communities has been under a state spotlight during the past several years, and as a result of the  Obama administration’s “Rethink Discipline” initiative, a federal spotlight as well. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has yet to issue guidance to schools related to school discipline.

“California is a leader in addressing suspensions,” Losen said, noting that alternatives to suspensions, such as restorative justice and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, have become more commonly used in school districts. The shift has been prompted in part by the development of the new state education accountability system, which includes standardized test scores but will require districts to include other measures, including their suspension rates, in 2017-18. In addition, a district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan is required to show how a district is addressing high rates of suspension.

As school districts revise their accountability plans, the report recommends that parents and others in local communities use the report’s calculations to take note of the economic impact of school suspensions, and to urge districts to invest in training school staff in alternatives.

The researchers say that reluctance to spend funds on addressing racially disparate suspension rates in some districts “stems in part from a lack of awareness of the local economic impact of suspension from school.”

Rumberger and Losen tracked a cohort of students – the entire California high school class of 2014 –  for three years starting in 10th grade, using data from the California Department of Education. Of the 480,000 students they followed, they found that students who were suspended had a 60 percent graduation rate, compared to the 83 percent graduation rate for non-suspended students – a 23 percentage point difference.

To figure out how much of that difference was due to suspensions, Rumberger and Losen looked at key risk factors for not graduating, including the number of failed classes and a low grade point average. They compared students who had those risk factors but had not been suspended with students who had those risk factors and were suspended. The researchers found that suspensions alone accounted for a 6.5 percentage point drop in graduation rates.

“What it tells us is that out of a 23 percentage point difference in graduation rates, roughly a quarter of the difference is due to suspension itself,” Rumberger said. He added in a statement, “It’s tragic; it’s bad economics; and it’s entirely avoidable.”

The researchers estimated the economic impact of the suspensions on the class of 2014 for all districts with more than 100 students. Suspensions in the Los Angeles Unified School District are estimated to result in $148 million in economic losses over the lifetimes of the 10th-grade cohort studied, the report said. The cost of suspensions in the Fresno Unified School District for the class of 2014 is estimated at $56 million; San Diego Unified suspensions of its students in that cohort will cost $38 million. Suspensions in San Francisco Unified and San Juan Unified are expected to cost $13 million each for the class of 2014.

A 1 percentage point drop in suspension rates for the 10th-grade cohort studied would create $180 million in economic savings, the report found. In Los Angeles Unified alone, a 1 percentage point drop would save California $25 million.

“As districts revise their goals and their budget for the next school year, they should understand the tremendous local cost savings that can be reaped locally by lowering suspension rates,” the report states.

Cost of school suspensions by district

In a three-year-study of the California class of 2014 starting in 10th grade, researchers at UC Santa Barbara’s California Dropout Research Project and UCLA’s Civil Rights Project at the Center for Civil Rights Remedies calculated the number of students who dropped out after being suspended, controlling for other common predictors of dropping out of high school. They calculated the economic costs associated with those non-graduates. 'Taxpayer cost' includes increased criminal justice costs. 'Total losses' includes taxpayer costs as well as reduced economic productivity. The list below is of all 401 California school districts enrolling more than 100 high school students.

The UCLA Civil Rights Project at the Center for Civil Rights Remedies | http://bit.ly/2mitAlg

DistrictNumber of non-graduates due to suspensions*Taxpayer cost (in millions)Total losses (in millions)
STATE4621809.172679.15
Los Angeles Unified25544.68147.94
Orange County Department of Ed10117.6158.31
Fresno Unified9716.9856.21
Kern High9516.6755.2
Los Angeles County Office of Education6711.7538.89
Sweetwater Union High6711.6538.57
San Diego Unified6611.4838.02
Fontana Unified6511.3637.61
San Bernardino City Unified5910.434.45
Long Beach Unified5910.3834.37
Elk Grove Unified569.7332.22
Modesto City High549.4931.43
Santa Ana Unified467.9926.46
Victor Valley Union High457.926.16
Twin Rivers Unified457.8325.93
Grossmont Union High437.524.84
Antelope Valley Union High417.1623.69
Oxnard Union High386.5921.82
East Side Union High376.421.2
Baldwin Park Unified366.3621.07
Chaffey Joint Union High366.3220.91
Tracy Joint Unified345.9819.79
Riverside Unified335.718.88
Merced Union High325.6618.73
West Contra Costa Unified315.4918.17
Rialto Unified315.417.86
Stockton Unified305.3417.68
Pomona Unified305.3217.6
Manteca Unified305.2417.34
Oakland Unified305.2217.3
Sacramento City Unified305.1717.11
Salinas Union High295.1317
Moreno Valley Unified284.9516.39
Riverside County Office of Edu284.9216.28
Corona-Norco Unified274.7615.75
Santa Rosa High274.7415.68
Mt. Diablo Unified274.7115.6
San Joaquin County Office of E274.6815.49
Vista Unified274.6415.38
Vallejo City Unified264.5315
Hesperia Unified254.4614.77
Temecula Valley Unified244.2113.94
Ceres Unified244.2113.94
Central Union High244.1813.83
Santa Maria Joint Union High234.1113.61
Chino Valley Unified234.0513.42
Roseville Joint Union High233.9813.19
San Francisco Unified233.9813.17
San Juan Unified233.9513.06
Lodi Unified223.9413.04
Kern County Office of Educatio223.912.93
Visalia Unified223.7912.55
Clovis Unified213.7112.29
Huntington Beach Union High213.6211.98
Capistrano Unified213.6111.95
Stanislaus County Office of Ed213.611.91
Anaheim Union High203.5911.87
Fullerton Joint Union High203.5911.87
Val Verde Unified203.5511.76
San Jose Unified203.5411.72
Calexico Unified193.3911.23
Glendale Unified193.3711.16
Newport-Mesa Unified193.3711.16
Madera Unified193.3611.12
El Dorado Union High193.3511.08
Pasadena Unified193.3511.08
Fairfield-Suisun Unified193.2910.89
William S. Hart Union High193.2810.86
Jurupa Unified193.2410.74
Orange Unified183.2210.67
Santa Clara County Office of E183.1910.55
Hemet Unified183.1110.29
Escondido Union High183.0710.18
Peris Union High173.0610.14
Liberty Union High173.0510.1
Compton Unified173.0510.1
Sequoia Union High172.989.87
Hayward Unified172.989.87
Inyo County Office of Educatio172.969.8
San Mateo Union High172.959.76
Oceanside Unified172.919.65
Palm Springs Unified172.99.61
Simi Valley Unified162.869.46
Merced County Office of Educat162.839.38
Montebello Unified162.829.35
Alameda County Office of Educa162.759.12
Adelanto Elementary152.718.97
Fremont Unified152.698.89
Central Unified152.698.89
Antioch Unified152.668.82
Redlands Unified152.618.63
Fresno County Office of Educat152.578.52
El Monte Union High142.538.37
Porterville Unified142.538.37
Petaluma Joint Union High142.498.25
Whittier Union High142.488.22
Cambell Union High142.478.18
Bellflower Unified142.478.18
Downey Unified142.458.1
Nevada County Office of Educat142.458.1
Gilroy Unified142.428.03
Pittsburg Unified142.397.91
Centinela Valley Union High132.367.8
Coachella Valley Unified132.367.8
San Leandro Unified132.367.8
Lake Elsinore Unified132.337.73
Torrance Unified132.317.65
Inglewood Unified132.297.58
ABC Unified132.287.54
Los Banos Unified132.287.54
Norwalk-La Mirada Unified132.277.5
Desert Sands Unified132.227.35
Paramount Unified122.076.86
Ventura County Office of Educa122.076.86
Yuba City Unified122.066.82
Marysville Joint Unified122.066.82
Turlock Unified122.056.78
Palmdale Elementary122.036.71
Apple Valley Unified122.016.67
Saddleback Valley Unified1126.63
Vacaville Unified111.986.56
San Lorenzo Unified111.946.41
Fremont Union High111.926.37
Garden Grove Unified111.876.18
Nevada Joint Union High111.866.14
Hacienda la Puente Unified111.846.11
Placer Union High101.836.07
Natomas Unified101.826.03
Shasta Union High101.815.99
Santa Clara Unified101.85.95
Contra Costa County Office of101.745.77
Rowland Unified101.715.65
Burbank Unified101.75.62
Santa Barbara Unified101.75.62
Napa Valley Unified101.685.58
Lynwood Unified101.685.58
Colton Joint Unified91.665.5
Tulare Joint Union High91.665.5
San Gabriel Unified91.645.43
Chico Unified91.635.39
Morongo Unified91.635.39
Conejo Unified91.625.35
Ventura Unified91.585.24
Alvord Unified91.575.2
Lindsay Unified91.575.2
Oroville Union High91.555.13
Anderson Union High91.545.09
Monterey County Office of Educ91.494.94
Berkeley Unified81.474.86
Sanger Unified81.464.82
Lincoln Unified81.464.82
Milpitas Unified81.454.79
Barstow Unified81.454.79
Irvine Unified81.394.6
Hermosa Beach City Elementary81.394.6
Snowline Joint Unified81.394.6
Oakdale Joint Unified81.394.6
Folsom-Cordova Unified81.384.56
Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified81.384.56
Covina-Valley Unified81.374.52
Ukiah Unified81.344.45
Woodland Joint Unified81.334.41
El Rancho Unified81.324.37
Coalinga-Huron Unified81.324.37
Pleasanton Unified71.314.33
Western Placer Unified71.314.33
New Haven Unified71.274.22
South San Francisco Unified71.254.15
Lemoore Union High71.254.15
South Monterey County Joint Un71.254.15
Gonzales Unified71.254.15
Amador County Unified71.224.03
Tulare County Office of Educat71.213.99
Rocklin Unified71.183.92
San Marcos Unified71.173.88
Paso Robles Joint Unified71.163.84
Hanford Joint Union High71.153.81
Castro Valley Unified71.153.81
Davis Joint Unified71.153.81
Center Joint Unified61.133.73
Bonita Unified61.123.69
Washington Unified61.123.69
Poway Unified61.13.66
Sonora Union High61.083.58
Alameda Unified61.073.54
Upland Unified61.073.54
Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified61.073.54
Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified61.063.51
Brawley Union High61.063.51
Washington Unified61.053.47
Delano Joint Union High61.043.43
San Jacinto Unified61.043.43
El Dorado County Office of Edu61.043.43
Azusa Unified61.023.39
Glendora Unified61.023.39
Beaumont Unified61.023.39
Monrovia Unified613.32
Lompoc Unified60.983.24
Fallbrook Union High60.983.24
San Benito High60.973.2
New Jerusalem Elementary50.963.17
Konocti Unified50.963.17
Kings Canyon Joint Unified50.943.13
Patterson Joint Unified50.943.13
Dehesa Elementary50.892.94
Duarte Unified50.892.94
Dixon Unified50.892.94
Lucia Mar Unified50.872.86
Monterey Peninsula Unified50.852.83
Newark Unified50.852.83
Rim of the World Unified50.852.83
Soledad Unified50.842.79
Novato Unified50.832.75
Julian Union Elementary50.832.75
San Dieguito Union High50.822.71
Westside Elementary50.822.71
Lake Tahoe Unified50.812.68
Acalanes Union High50.82.64
Parlier Unified40.792.6
Tamalpais Union High40.772.56
Selma Unified40.772.56
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified40.752.49
Red Bluff Joint Union High40.752.49
Travis Unified40.752.49
North Monterey County Unified40.752.49
Moorpark Unified40.742.45
Galt Joint Union High40.742.45
Oro Grande Elementary40.742.45
Gateway Unified40.742.45
Livermore Valley Joint Unified40.712.34
Taft Union High40.712.34
San Rafael City High40.692.3
Waterford Unified40.682.26
Kerman Unified40.682.26
McFarland Unified40.682.26
Murrieta Valley Unified40.672.22
Carlsbad Unified40.662.19
John Swett Unified40.662.19
Yuba County Office of Educatio40.652.15
Windsor Unified40.632.07
Santa Cruz County Office of Ed40.632.07
Pajaro Valley Unified40.612.04
Santa Cruz City High40.612.04
Ripon Unified40.612.04
Bishop Unified30.62
Alhambra Unified30.591.96
Linden Unified30.591.96
West Sonoma County Union High30.581.92
Palo Verde Unified30.581.92
Claremont Unified30.571.88
Dublin Unified30.571.88
Mojave Unified30.571.88
Sonoma Valley Unified30.551.81
Paradise Unified30.551.81
Calaveras Unified30.551.81
Corcoran Joint Unified30.531.77
Santa Paula Unified30.521.73
Raisin City Elementary30.521.73
Sierra Sands Unified30.511.7
Banning Unified30.511.7
Yosemite Unified30.511.7
Ramona City Unified30.51.66
Atascadero Unified30.51.66
Dinuba Unified30.491.62
Chowchilla Union High30.491.62
Riverbank Unified30.491.62
Hilmar Unified30.491.62
Healdsburg Unified30.491.62
Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union30.481.58
Charter Oak Unified30.481.58
Mountain Empire Unified30.481.58
Eureka City Schools30.471.55
Las Virgenes Unified30.461.51
Fillmore Unified30.461.51
Martinez Unified30.441.47
Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unifi30.441.47
Butte County Office of Educati30.441.47
Tehachapi Unified20.421.39
Mono County Office of Educatio20.421.39
Wasco Union High20.411.36
Escalon Unified20.411.36
Siskiyou Union High20.411.36
Culver City Unified20.391.28
Cabrillo Unified20.381.24
Muroc Joint Unified20.381.24
Brea-Olinda Unified20.361.21
Gridley Unified20.361.21
Fort Bragg Unified20.361.21
Cloverdale Unified20.361.21
Corning Union High20.351.17
West Park Elementary20.351.17
Palo Alto Unified20.331.09
Tahoe-Truckee Unified20.331.09
Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified20.331.09
River Delta Joint Unified20.331.09
Humboldt County Office of Educ20.321.06
Winters Joint Unified20.321.06
Bassett Unified20.311.02
Denair Unified20.311.02
Hughson Unified20.311.02
Armona Union Elementary20.30.98
Sierra Unified20.30.98
Golden Plains Unified20.30.98
Bear Valley Unified20.280.94
Live Oak Unified20.270.9
Willows Unified20.270.9
Lakeside Union Elementary10.250.83
Mountain View-Los Altos Union10.240.79
Plumas Unified10.230.75
Gustine Unified10.230.75
Spencer Valley Elementary10.220.72
Woodlake Unified10.220.72
Morgan Hill Unified10.20.68
La Canada Unified10.20.68
Imperial Unified10.20.68
Mendota Unified10.20.68
Yreka Union High10.20.68
Carpinteria Unified10.20.68
Le Grand Union High10.20.68
Riverdale Joint Unified10.20.68
Oak Park Unified10.190.64
Newman-Crows Landing Unified10.190.64
Wheatland Union High10.190.64
Fowler Unified10.190.64
Black Oak Mine Unified10.190.64
Exeter Unified10.180.6
Marcum-Illinois Union Elementa10.180.6
Gorman Elementary10.150.49
Sutter Union High10.150.49
Scotts Valley Unified10.090.3
Caruthers Unified10.090.3
Arcadia Unified00.080.26
San Bernardino County Office o000
San Ramon Valley Unified#VALUE!****
Tustin Unified#VALUE!****
Walnut Valley Unified#VALUE!****
San Diego County Office of Edu#VALUE!****
Jefferson Union High#VALUE!****
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified#VALUE!****
West Covina Unified#VALUE!****
Los Alamitos Unified#VALUE!****
Redondo Beach Unified#VALUE!****
Temple City Unified#VALUE!****
San Luis Coastal Unified#VALUE!****
Beverly Hills Unified#VALUE!****
Benicia Unified#VALUE!****
Sacramento County Office of Ed#VALUE!****
Acton-Agua Dulce Unified#VALUE!****
Northern Humboldt Union High#VALUE!****
San Luis Obispo County Office#VALUE!****
Madera County Office of Educat#VALUE!****
Valley Center-Pauma Unified#VALUE!****
El Segundo Unified#VALUE!****
San Marino Unified#VALUE!****
Calfironia Educatiion Authority Headquarters#VALUE!****
Lennox#VALUE!****
Kingsburg Joint Union High#VALUE!****
Coronado Unified#VALUE!****
Southern Kern Unified#VALUE!****
Santa Ynez Valley Union High#VALUE!****
Del Norte County Unified#VALUE!****
Fortuna Union High#VALUE!****
Laguna Beach Unified#VALUE!****
SBC - High Tech High#VALUE!****
Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified#VALUE!****
San Lorenzo Valley Unified#VALUE!****
Ojai Unified#VALUE!****
Wiseburn Elementary#VALUE!****
Lassen Union High#VALUE!****
Sonoma County Office of Educat#VALUE!****
Templeton Unified#VALUE!****
Summerville Union High#VALUE!****
San Francisco County Office of#VALUE!****
Piedmont City Unified#VALUE!****
Farmersville Unified#VALUE!****
San Mateo County Office of Edu#VALUE!****
Bret Harte Union High#VALUE!****
Mariposa County Unified#VALUE!****
Santa Barbara County Office of#VALUE!****
Stone Corral Elementary#VALUE!****
Orland Joint Unified#VALUE!****
Chawanakee Unified#VALUE!****
Holtville Unified#VALUE!****
Golden Valley Unified#VALUE!****
Maricopa Unified#VALUE!****
Pacific Grove Unified#VALUE!****
Solano County Office of Educat#VALUE!****
Middletown Unified#VALUE!****
Willits Unified#VALUE!****
Orcutt Union Elementary#VALUE!****
Kelseyville Unified#VALUE!****
Napa County Office of Educatio#VALUE!****
Lawndale Elementary#VALUE!****
Trinity Alps Unified#VALUE!****
Saint Helena Unified#VALUE!****
Colusa Unified#VALUE!****
Hawthorne#VALUE!****
Jefferson Elementary#VALUE!****
Silver Valley Unified#VALUE!****
Manhattan Beach Unified#VALUE!**
South Pasadena Unified#VALUE!**
*This is the number of students for whom being suspended was the key factor contributing to their dropping out of school.

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  1. Erin Flory 4 months ago4 months ago

    Just reducing suspensions is not enough to help these students. For years principals have resisted suspending students and have sent them right back to the classroom where they continue the disruptive/aggressive behavior. Principals have stated that the teacher should deal with the problem and than if she/he can't then they must not be a "good" teacher. However, students who have high rates of severe behavior problems need more than just a good … Read More

    Just reducing suspensions is not enough to help these students. For years principals have resisted suspending students and have sent them right back to the classroom where they continue the disruptive/aggressive behavior. Principals have stated that the teacher should deal with the problem and than if she/he can’t then they must not be a “good” teacher. However, students who have high rates of severe behavior problems need more than just a good “teacher.” Schools must have a sufficient number of well-trained staff who can work with these students forming strong positive relationships, teach the social and behavioral skills these students need, and be available when there is a crisis to help the child work through the issue.
    Schools need to work with these students families to build positive relationships. Frequently there are no trained adults available to do this. I’ve had to call for help from the office manager and the attendance clerk. There has been improvement in my district with PBIS and the hiring of school counselors (we have 1 available 2 days per week), but our schools need more trained help for these students.
    Is it worth the cost of additional staff? It certainly is if it can help more students be successful! But will society be willing to pay the costs or just merely put it off?

  2. Jeff Krause 5 months ago5 months ago

    While I am all for reducing suspension whenever possible, I’m not convinced by the methodology of this study. It seems to me that in order to have a proper comparison, you’d need to compare students who had the same behavior problems, not just the same risk factors. You could then compare those who were suspended after the incident with those who had other consequences, such as Restorative Justice.

  3. Toni Herr 5 months ago5 months ago

    Where's the study showing the effects on students/teachers who suffer the mistreatment of those who should have been suspended but are kept in school? I'm a witness to the new mantra, "no suspensions." It doesn't work. Teachers lose control when kids see that they can misbehave at extreme levels and suffer no consequences. It's very disheartening. The student who might have learned a lesson by having a suspension becomes emboldened and the behavior problems escalate. … Read More

    Where’s the study showing the effects on students/teachers who suffer the mistreatment of those who should have been suspended but are kept in school? I’m a witness to the new mantra, “no suspensions.” It doesn’t work. Teachers lose control when kids see that they can misbehave at extreme levels and suffer no consequences. It’s very disheartening. The student who might have learned a lesson by having a suspension becomes emboldened and the behavior problems escalate. Not to mention that parents talk and those who can leave for private school or schools in higher economic areas of the district flee. It’s NO solution to avoid suspensions at all costs.

  4. Tom McDonald 5 months ago5 months ago

    Obviously Floyd has a solid opinion, but nothing to back it up, so it becomes simply opinion. ALL the research says teaching to the middle creates the education gap. The solution is to change paradigms completely and totally from 20th century one-size=fits-all teaching to 21st century personalized learning. The key is to empower all teachers to empower all students with sustained success. Unfortunately traditional educators have yet to discover this research because … Read More

    Obviously Floyd has a solid opinion, but nothing to back it up, so it becomes simply opinion. ALL the research says teaching to the middle creates the education gap. The solution is to change paradigms completely and totally from 20th century one-size=fits-all teaching to 21st century personalized learning. The key is to empower all teachers to empower all students with sustained success. Unfortunately traditional educators have yet to discover this research because they are so busy preserving the flawed past by focusing on the trees, rather than the forest

  5. Floyd Thursby 5 months ago5 months ago

    This is one sided. What about the smart kids who earn less money over a lifetime because they get a worse education because of what the suspended kid is doing wrong? What about the child who is trying to get an education but is ridiculed and then punched in the face and laughed at instead of praised for his or her hard work and emulated? Instead of a culture where kids who … Read More

    This is one sided. What about the smart kids who earn less money over a lifetime because they get a worse education because of what the suspended kid is doing wrong? What about the child who is trying to get an education but is ridiculed and then punched in the face and laughed at instead of praised for his or her hard work and emulated? Instead of a culture where kids who study hardest are treated as someone to be admired and learned from, they are attacked and mocked and treated as not someone to follow but someone to laugh at. What is the long-term cost of that?