Florida’s public school system has the nation’s highest number of students being forced to drop out of school due to high-stakes suspensions, and the schools system is being stretched to its limits by the lack of money, state and federal officials say.
Florida’s Department of Education estimates that more than 1.3 million students nationwide will need to drop from school because of suspensions, with the vast majority of those students receiving the least support, according to a new report from the State Policy Network.
The Florida Department of Children and Families has said the number of suspensions nationwide is more than 9.7 million.
The state has not yet reported suspensions in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which encompasses Orlando and Orlando Metropolitan.
Florida officials have acknowledged the issue and said they are looking into how to better support students who drop out.
Florida School Superintendent David R. Wooten said the state is “pushing hard to address” the issue.
The Department of Public Safety, which is the agency charged with overseeing the school system, said last month it was considering increasing the number and severity of suspensions to help students stay in school.
But the department has said it is not ready to increase the number or severity of suspension to meet the needs of students who have been suspended.
Wooten defended the practice of suspending students at the rate of 100 students per week, saying the department wants to reduce the number to 20 students per day.
Florida school districts have the nation´s highest number with 1.2 million students.
The number of suspended students nationally is more per student than any other state, according the state.
But Wootan said the department is “still considering” changes to its current suspension schedule.
He said the suspensions are “unprecedented in terms of number, and severity.”
Wootan also said the school district is still reviewing its suspension policies and plans to release them this week.
Wearing a tie, Rene Odom, an assistant superintendent at Franklin High School in Orlando, said his district was dealing with a huge volume of suspensions.
Odom said a student who was suspended in the third grade was sent home after the teacher determined he had broken the rules.
The student, who has not been identified, has since graduated.
He was not able to say how many students were suspended each week for the school year, or how many had dropped out.
The state has suspended at least 11,908 students this year, with more than 8,000 students receiving a suspension in the first three months of the school term, according a report by the State Policies Network.
Statewide, the state suspended 1,634 students in the past three months, the group reported.
More than 2,000 of those were from Florida, according that report.
State Rep. John C. “Jumbo” Burden, a Democrat from Port Orange, said the suspension issue has to be addressed in a state with a population of about 2.8 million people.
“It’s a massive issue, especially with students who are in special needs,” Burden said.
“That needs to be solved.”
The Florida Education Association, the nation�s largest school-supply association, has estimated the state needs to increase funding to meet its current needs by $1.3 billion, which includes additional money for teachers, counselors, and administrators.
It also needs to invest in the infrastructure, and create a school resource officer, Burden added.
In a statement, the association said that Florida�s public schools are facing a $2 billion budget shortfall in fiscal 2019.