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Local group examines cost of discipline in schools

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One local group is examining how much money public schools spend on disciplining students.

At a time when schools are being asked to do more with less, some say the $270 million going toward student discipline could be better spent.

Cathryne McNamara is this year's recipient of the Outstanding Teaching of the Humanities Award.

"This one was actually flown in your honor," said Congressman Michael McCaul.

He hosted the ceremony for the 13 year teaching veteran. However, not every day is full of awards and accolades.

"There are tough days, but my tough days don't compare to some other teachers' tough days," said McNamara.

In the 2011 legislative session, the state cut $5.4 million from the public education budget.

"Class sizes are increasing and budgets are being cut, but this is important work...it's inspiring," said McNamara.

Environments like Anderson High School inspired Austin-based organization, Texas Appleseed, to find more strategic ways of spending education dollars.

"The total number is about $270 million," said Kathryn Freeman, with Texas Appleseed.

She says among the 11 school districts surveyed, about $270 million is spent on out-of-school suspensions, disciplinary alternative education programs, Campus Security and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education programs.

"The schools are having to count those students as absent, so they're not getting state funding for those kids when they're sitting at home," said Freeman.

That's 11 out of about 1,100 school districts in the state.

"It affects them academically. When you're missing a lot of days because of discipline reasons, you kind of get off track and you get back to school and it becomes hard to catch up," Freeman said.

Pflugerville ISD has done away with out-of-school suspension for middle school students.

"Instead of going home, students are in a program on a campus in the school district where they are getting, kind of, character education," Freeman said.

The price tag associated with positive programs are a fraction of the cost.

"I have students here from my very first year of teaching, which is really special to me," McNamara said.

The hope is to get more funding for schools and more students interacting with teachers.

A recent report by the organization "children at risk," says after the recent school funding crisis, 60 percent of Texas school districts made no adjustments to security spending.

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