BREAK UP VIOLENT SCHOOLS

July 18, 2005

Smaller schools experience less violence because school funding and decision-making are concentrated at the school level rather than upstream at the school district. Small-school principals have more control and less red tape, which allows hem to execute policies that actually reduce school conflict and violence on their campuses, says Lisa Snell (Reason Public Policy Institute).

Reducing school size will improve student learning, says Snell. School districts across the nation have begun to recognize this trend; specifically two urban districts in California -- San Francisco and Oakland -- have moved their budgeting practices to the school level:

  • San Francisco has 116 schools with 60,000 students and is in its fourth year of using a weighted student formula for funding and gives more decision-making power to principals and their school site councils, made up of parents and staff.
  • Since implementing the plan, San Francisco's test scores have improved every year.

In light of the relationship between large schools, school violence and student achievement, the national small school movement is receiving great financial support:

  • In the past decade, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $745 million in grant money to promote small schools, including a $51.2 million gift to New York City public schools to fund 67 small, theme-based high schools, each of which will limit enrollment to 500 students.
  • Chicago has also decided to close 60 of its worst schools and replace them with 100 smaller schools with a new staff and new programs.

Other cities should do the same. They should work with, push and cajole their districts to replace their most dangerous schools with smaller schools to ensure our students are given the best possible learning environment and don't have to worry about being a crime victim on campus, says Snell.

Source: Lisa Snell, "Break Up Violent Schools," Privatization Watch: Focus on Air and Space Policy, vol. 29, no. 2, June 16, 2005.

 

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