- In a Wednesday speech at the National Press Club, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan set his sights on the school-to-prison pipeline, pushing states to take alternate routes that could ultimately save money in incarceration costs.
- Duncan pushed states and districts to avoid incarceration as a way to address nonviolent crime, and the Education Department says the move could save states as much as $15 billion annually.
- That money, Duncan said, could instead be used to raise teachers’ salaries and pay for highly qualified teachers in high-needs schools, or for teacher mentors.
Duncan’s proposal is no more than a suggestion right now. The federal government doesn’t have the authority to force states to end zero-tolerance discipline, and any solutions will have to be packed in to the last months of President Barack Obama’s waning term.
But the text of the speech Duncan was expected to give was released early and offers a glimpse into his own experience with zero tolerance discipline as superintendent of Chicago's public schools. He talked about trying to track down when and where students were getting arrested, only to find it was happening on school time. "Those calls to the police, to put kids in jail? We were making them," the speech reads. "We were responsible. We had met the enemy, and it was us.”