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Why preschool suspensions still happen (and how to stop them)

June 20, 2016
Cory Turner

Something’s wrong in America’s classrooms. According to new data from the Education Department, black students — from kindergarten through high school — are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students. Now the really bad news. This trend begins in preschool, where black children are already 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white students. In all, 6,743 children who were enrolled in public pre-K received one or more out-of-school suspensions in the 2013-14 school year.

Glass half-full: That number’s down slightly and relatively small considering the 1.4 million kids who, according to the Education Department, attended public pre-K that year. Glass half-empty: That’s 6,743 kids too many, say several top child development experts.

“To be clear, preschool suspension just shouldn’t be a thing for any kid,” says Maryam Adamu, who until recently studied early childhood policy at the Center For American Progress. To stop preschool suspensions, Adamu argues, it’s important to understand why they happen. One reason: money. “You get what you pay for. When we’re underfunding programs, we’re sort of setting ourselves up to fail.”