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Education Secretary Duncan Advocates Shifting Money From Prisons to Schools

Date Published: October 01, 2015

CRP's Center for Civil Rights Remedies supports Education Secretary Arnie Duncan's September 30, 2015 proposal to shift funds from prisons to schools.

October 1, 2015

Education Secretary Duncan Advocates Shifting Money
From Prisons to Schools


Los Angeles, CA -- The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project strongly supports Secretary Duncan’s proposal, presented yesterday by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a speech about the Administration's plans for education policy. Duncan stated: “If our states and localities took just half the people convicted of nonviolent crimes and found paths for them other than incarceration, they would save upwards of $15 billion a year.” Those funds could then be reinvested “… into paying the teachers who are working in our highest-need schools and communities – they could provide a 50 percent average salary increase to every single one of them.” 

"Secretary Duncan’s speech expresses urgency on the need to shift funding priorities from prisons to schools and a deep awareness of the school to prison pipeline's impact on students.” said Daniel J. Losen, CCRR’s Director.  “The stark disparities by race and disability status that we have been highlighting in each of our reports on school discipline," are compelling educators to reject the status quo."

Educators and community groups can find discipline data on their district by visiting:

Duncan relays how his examination of Chicago’s data on the arrests of juveniles made him acutely aware of the issue and how school practices contributed:

“I didn’t expect the answer: That the majority of the arrests were occurring during the school day, in our school buildings, mostly for nonviolent misdemeanors. Those calls to the police, to put kids in jail? We were making them. …Today, our schools suspend roughly three and a half million kids a year, and refer a quarter of a million children to the police each year. And the patterns are even more troubling for children of color - particularly boys - and for students with disabilities.”

We encourage concerned citizens to read or watch Secretary Duncan’s speech, which highlights the connection between excessive discipline and academics, and review new research on implicit bias and how the solutions entail addressing these problems as part of broader efforts to improve schools, and equalize educational opportunities.

CCRR recently published Closing the School Discipline Gap: Equitable Remedies for Excessive Exclusiona volume of research from leading scholars, which includes detailed analysis of what has worked to reduce both exclusion and disparities.

Alongside tremendous gratitude to the Secretary for highlighting these concerns, Losen encourages the U.S. Department of Education, and every state department of education, to take additional steps to raise awareness. This can be done by publicly and annually reporting school and district level data on school discipline, including the data on arrests and referrals to law enforcement, and by disaggregating these data by race/ethnicity, disability, gender, English learner status.

This information will not only guarantee that resources are directed to where the problems are most severe, but also ensure that policymakers can monitor the remedies they implement, and distinguish and replicate those approaches that are most effective.

Contact Daniel Losen, Director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies, with questions. 


The UCLA Civil Rights Project’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies is dedicated to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for children who have been discriminated against historically due to their race or ethnicity and who are frequently subjected to exclusionary practices such as disciplinary removal, over-representation in special education and reduced access to a college-prep curriculum.

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