Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eliminate school police for budget savings

If public school budgets will be radically cut in Texas, a prospect which for the moment appears all but inevitable, which employees should be eliminated first? Judging from the ongoing debate, maybe campus cops. Jason Embry at the Austin Statesman describes some of the debates surrounding school budgets thusly:
One of the most important dividing lines in the discussion about the state's budget crisis separates those who think Texas schools need more money and those who think schools just need to make better spending decisions.

Those in the second group have some powerful numbers on their side. In a December report, Comptroller Susan Combs found that per-student spending increased 63 percent over the previous decade. That growth rate was nearly twice as fast as inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, and it points to a Texas school system that isn't starving for cash.

Another statistic in wide circulation these days says Texas school districts employ about as many nonteachers as teachers. This has led many to suggest that, even as lawmakers consider billions of dollars' worth of funding cuts to schools, local education officials can balance the books without shedding teachers.
I've not seen hard data, but based on anecdotal accounts I'd suggest that the growing number and size of school-based police forces likely account for a big chunk of growth among nonteacher school employees in the last decade. Shouldn't they be among the first to get the budget axe? They're the only sizable class of school employees we know for sure they can do without because schools did so for most of their history in Texas and elsewhere. The phenomenon of campus-based police departments is something that's really only arisen en masse in the last 20 or so years in Texas public schools.

Attorney Don Dickson once commented on this blog that when he was growing up, his elementary school had a dietician but no cops, while he learned through an experience with an obese 13-year old client that today's schools have cops but no nutritionists. Those flip-flopped priorities explain why Texas schools write thousands of tickets and why JJAEPs (Juvenile Justice Alternative Educational Programs) have mushroomed in size: Once you begin dealing with routine behavior problems through a police apparatus, you create bureaucratic processes that will pretty much grow endlessly until somebody decides to fundamentally change course.

That could happen sooner than later: State Sen. John Whitmire, who chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has suggested eliminating or radically scaling back the amount of ticketing at schools, and if they're not going to be writing tickets, perhaps school police aren't really needed at all? If the state is going to demand that schools reduce their number of employees but want only nonteacher positions eliminated, campus cops seem like they'd be at the top of the list of expenditures that don't directly relate to the schools' core educational mission. Why not cut them, first?


Anonymous said...

"I've not seen hard data, but based on anecdotal accounts I'd suggest that the growing number and size of school-based police forces likely account for a big chunk of growth among nonteacher school employees in the last decade. Shouldn't they be among the first to get the budget axe?"

Negative ghostwriter, the problem is many districts like mine have too many aide positions. That's where the big chunk comes from!

With that said and I have asked the question from several state reps but have no response, how has state assessment testing, which began in the late 70's and tweaked every year since, contributed to the amount of teacher aides and substitutes that overwhelm districts today? How has it contributed in the way of unfunded mandates to districts?

School districts like mine are choking on all of the legislatively imposed rules and regulations. Hell, our operating manual is more restrictive and cumbersome than most Texas metro le agencies.

Anonymous said...

Overly simplistic. Speaking in general terms I would look at what changes in the last 20 years caused a need for a district police force. I would venture a guess that there is a combination of unfunded legislation from local, state, and federal levels that have put some requirements into effect that can only be accomplished by a Peace Officer. Not to mention some of the drug and violence issues that just didn't exist when I was in school. So, Yes, you can probably save money by scaling back and/or doing away with Campus PD but I think dealing with the issues that caused them to be needed in the first place would be a more direct approach.

Anonymous said...

7:54 - Government can't deal with the actual problem because they lack control. The problem is families,or the lack there of. Government can hand down mandadtes to teachers, cops, and juvenile probation officers, but that can't make a dad be a dad or a mom be a mom.

Getting rid of the police on campus would be short term. It would only be matter of time before an incident occured and the community demanded police presence on school campus' once again.

As someone pointed out earlier, students today are not the same as they were 30 years ago.

Anonymous said...

At least one district, Cy-Fair in Houston, have a security force for rattling doors after hours but still have a contracted deputy constable, with assigned office space, on their high school cammpuses. They are really great at writing citations at the direction/order of the assistant principals. Just what every AP needs and wants - a cop in their pocket. The AP says jump and the deputy says 'how high'? That's the price for keeping the assignment/employment for if the deputy loses the assignment because of an AP being unhappy over the deputy actually refusing to write citations when directed, he is easily discharged from the constables office (no civil service protection).

Anonymous said...

Dang. "has" and "campuses". No excuse other than it's early.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:40, if class sizes jump to 50+ in elementary school, won't you need those teacher's aides? I do agree all the state imposed testing and other requirements also contributed to administrative bloat.

7:54, the ticketing Whitmire wants to end is the main thing cops can do that administrators can't. End that, and there's just not a great need for them that the locals can't fill.

8:24, alternatively, it could only be a matter of time till an incident occurred, someone called 911, and it was resolved by the local cops without a problem and everyone decides campus cops weren't really needed. IMO it could easily cut both ways. If there's a really serious incident now, they have to call the real cops, anyway.

8:44, your comments align with my own suspicions that administrators like having cops around because it means somebody else is doing their job and they still get to draw a paycheck. Who wouldn't prefer that?

Sandy said...

The St. Johns County (Florida) School District, which employes 3,200 people, saved $3.6 million in just 18 months by turning it off. Turning it ALL off. They didn’t raise taxes, lay off employees, or look for money from exotic outside sources. They simply made a concerted and focused effort to turn off every electrical appliance that was not in use and they did it diligently. Every day. For more of their story, follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/4c8a72y

How often do our Texas students, teachers, administrators, and other personnel turn off EVERYTHING when they leave a classroom, office, or other school facility for the day? To make a difference, off means off, with no little red or green lights left glowing in the dark. That means copy machines, coffee makers, computers and monitors, TV, projectors – everything electric. Wonder how much our school districts could save in 18 months by simply using what we have in a wiser, more cost-effective way than we use them now.

Anonymous said...

Many ISD's obtained COPS grants to fund these positions. The grant requires the ISD's to have a retention plan in place to fund the positions at the end of the life of the grant.

If ISD's have to repay the federal government because they do not retain these positions, where is the savings?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:30, I doubt they'd have to repay the money if they just abolished the police agencies altogether and they no longer existed. DOJ is pretty flexible in such circumstances.

Good point, though, that many campus PDs were started with OPM (other people's money) and going forward local taxpayers must pick up the full tab. That's one more excellent fiscal argument for eliminating them before the balloon payments come due.

Skylar said...

I think the issue with too many aides and admin in schools today is more about the amount of paperwork that districts have tried to take off of teacher's shoulders. It is cheaper to hire an aide to do inclusion assistance with special ed or ESL students than it is to hire a certified teacher. There are so many documentation, meetings, and reports required to be created and submitted to different state agencies for all of their unfunded mandates, that it gets ridiculous. Teachers already have 30 + kids in their classrooms, and many times, they have a wide disparity in learning levels to contend with, not to mention grading deadlines and extra curricular activities to work around. Testing, however, has got to be the WORST drain on school districts ever.(I can only speak for high school since that is where my experience lies). I've been helping organize things for TAKS testing, and just getting every group covered with a trained test administrator, every hallway covered and bathroom covered to prevent security breaches is a HUGE ordeal. There are hours of work that goes into preparing for the admistration of those stupid tests, you just wouldn't believe it. Checking for coding errors, putting the boxes of testing materials together, attendance lists, seating charts, placement of students in groups(some need oral testing, some need small group testing, and you have to have separate rooms and teachers for each grade level and each different test--plus, each day a particular student may need different accommodations depending on their ARD requirements). It is a nightmare logistically. I think all of this testing is where the money is wasted. Right now, schools lose 25 days to state mandated testing out of 180. This doesn't include regular testing that goes on in the classroom, benchmarking, and tests like the PSAT and PLAN test, which are in addition to that. With the STAAR test, 45 days will be taken up!! 45 JUST to TEST! Ridiculous!!! And who is going to keep track of all of that? Which student needs to re-take which test, and how that will affect their graduation? I am truly worried about what all of these cuts will do to our quality of education and the future of our workforce. I'm sure, in about 10 years, when finances are good again but college graduates are struggling, and there are fewer educated workers, the legislature will blame us for not spending MORE money on education instead of cutting it.

Anonymous said...

You obviously haven't been to a middle school or high school lately.

The Geography Lady said...

50 years ago half of all kids dropped out before high school. Now we make everybody under 18 attend school. No wonder the atmosphere is different.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grits lets just eliminate all of the Police in the State, turn out all of the prisoners from the jails and prisons, and start all over again from scratch.....

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:58, let's just start with axing the ISD cops and see how far that gets us.

Anonymous said...

I mean really.... Who cares if there is a person with a gun that comes onto the campus? Who cares about the students who have been killed, injured, or mentally impaired by violence at the school? There are some kids that actually learn when they go to school, there are even some who like going to school to learn, so why should we have to support them, or provide a safe environment for them to learn? Let their parents pay for them to go to a private school would be a better solution.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:03, parents will also be looking to send their kids to private schools if class sizes go up to 50 or 60.

They've got to cut somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Just an observational note:
There is one article on post that talks about prisoners and education, and then this article about Police in Public Schools. It would seem that if you want to remove Police from education, then it would be right to remove education from prisons.
Just thought that it was note worthy due to the irony of the thing.

austex1151 said...

I vote to eliminate campus cops entirely. In my personal experience with my kids in middle school, the campus cop did virtually nothing positive. They never broke up fights, did noting about bullying- which was flagrant and race based, were missing in action on real problems like drugs and serious violence, and had to call the real cops at any rate. And while we're at it, is DARE still around? What a complete waste of money- a feel good sop to parents and schools worried about rising drug use, but that has had no effects at all. Waste of money.

As noted above, schools managed without cops on campus for almost all their history. What changed was both the student population as well as the view of principals, who would rather fob off a kid with problems to the "justice" system than engage him or her and try to help. And, again, there are still the real cops still readily available.

Anonymous said...

Hey austex....

Have you thought about home school since you are so disheartened by the Public School?
This might be a solution to your problem. I think that the very well documented rise in violence on campus, ie. shootings, beatings, rapes, etc. gave credit to the theory that Police in Schools are a good thing. Not everyone will have a positive encounter with the Police, look at Scott, but what would you want if something happened to your child at school?
Would you want a trained person there to respond or would you to prefer to let the Principal asess the situation and then call the Police?
There is and old saying: Prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I believe that this applies to what School Police Officers do on a daily basis.
They also have to have the same training as Real Police Officers, and even more so since they deal with the Texas Penal Code, as well as the Education Code.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:49, let's grant for a moment that "Police in Schools are a good thing."

Perhaps you'll also grant that "Schools without teachers aren't schools."

So, if the budget must be cut, some "good things" will inevitably fall victim to budget reductions. But the things that should be cut first are those that don't directly rate to the core mission of schools. In other words, cut campus cops before you cut teachers.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow.
I'm not one to back up cops in Texas after what my son and I went through with the justice system, but I hate to say this, think carefully before you pull the campus police. Spend a bit of time volunteering at a middle or high school and watch. It's not the same and believe me, the presence of the campus officer makes a huge difference for those children who are no match for some of the gang element that is being included on school campuses. I subbed in Garland for a few years at a middle school (while being yo-yoed in and out of the Dallas court system) and I saw firsthand how important the school officer was in keeping things in check.
I will say that I was disturbed quite a bit by an incident whereby the officer showed up in the middle of my English class and called a little black girl out to talk to her. She didn't come back that class period. I'm sure it was quite humiliating for that little girl, with the officer a man. Something just didn't look right to me.
But, you pull the campus police off and you will see some real problems.

More Cops said...

Eliminate all special interest police. Do we really need:

Dental cops
Fire cops
Beef cops
Beer cops
Train cops
Bus cops
Water cops
Pharmacy cops
Hospital cops
Park cops
Lottery cops
Doctor cops
Tax cops
Security cops
...AND school cops?

What the hell is my local police doing? I wonder how much money this would save us?

Anonymous said...

What is a school without teachers is not a school?

What idiot came up with that lame saying?

Nobody has said cut teachers....DUH!!

Here are some things that could be cut.....

Let's start with the extraciricular activities...... The key word in the phrase is EXTRA

Schools that have a program for every sport should have to pick which ones they are better at and then scrap the rest.
Cut out all of the long distance trips to these sporting activities and find games closer to their school to save fuel and food expenses.
How about cutting the food expenses completely and have the lunch room personnel make sack lunches for the athelets....which is what used to happen years ago in a galaxy far far away..
Just this would save an enormous amount of money!
Next take a look at the bus routes....are all of the bus seats taken on each one? Could there maybe be more econonmic routes?

There are alot of ways to trim the fat and make do with what you have before putting people out of work....period.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that this blogging site is not for the better of the people, but rather a I hate the Police, Government, My Parents, and anyone else that does not think the same way I do site.

Let's all try to take the road less traveled and attempt to find solutions to these real problems, rather than take potshots at people that have a different opinion, or point of view.

If you are a victim of crime, a single parent, etc. who are you going to need help from?

The very people that some of you are being very hateful to on this site....

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! The money for citations that these so called officers write go directly to the county, not to the schools. The children that get cited are going through a "double punishment"; one with the schoool and the other with the justice department. Also, I think the school police should have a certain amount of law enforcement experience: especially the chief. Unlike the one in our district who covers his inexperience by harrasssing and profiling the students. It would be much cheaper to contract off duty (real policemen) instead of having school district police departments.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you have not discovered how much Off Duty Cops get paid for their "Extra" jobs.

The low end would be 25.00 per hour up to 55.00 per hour depending where you are located.

Anonymous said...

Would someone please tell me what the difference between school police officers and real police officers are....

I thought they were the same.

And what about the comment on the contracted officer at Cy-Fair I believe?

Who pays for that officer?
I am sure that the school has to shoulder that expense.