by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Harvard government professor Paul Peterson explains in a National Review Online column that the Obama administration has gained little public support for its efforts to turn school discipline into a federal government issue.
[W]hatever its legal basis, does the Obama administration’s new policy have broad-based support? To find out, we at the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance have asked nationally representative cross-sections of parents, teachers, and the general public (as part of the ninth annual Education Next survey, conducted in May and June of this year) whether they support or oppose “federal policies that prevent schools from expelling or suspending black and Hispanic students at higher rates than other students.” Only 23 percent of parents favor the new policy, while 54 percent oppose it, with the remainder responding that they neither support nor oppose the idea. Among the public as a whole, opposition is just about as large, with 51 percent opposing the “no disparate impact” policy, and just 21 percent backing the idea.
A majority in favor of federal involvement in school discipline cannot be found among either Democrats or Republicans. Only 29 percent of Democrats like the new federal ruling, while barely 11 percent of Republicans give it their support.
Teachers are even more opposed to federal involvement in school discipline. No less than 59 percent of teachers oppose federally mandated “no disparate impact,” while only 23 percent say they favor it.
Within the African-American community, a plurality of support for the federal policy can be found — 41 percent in favor, 23 percent opposed. But whites are overwhelmingly against an expanded federal role in setting school-discipline standards: Just 14 percent favor the new federal policy, while 57 percent oppose it. Among Hispanic respondents, those against federal “guidance” outnumber supporters by 44 percent to 31 percent.
Given the strong opposition to the policy among parents, teachers, and the general public, the federal government would be wise to drop further efforts to impose racially based rules for suspension and expulsion rates.