While Newfoundland and Labrador is well-known for our strong sense of community spirit, it’s hard to ignore the reality: our world has changed, and our communities are changing too. A number of factors have led to increased reports of violence and bullying within our classrooms and schools.

Without modeling safe and inclusive communities from a young age, we run the risk of alienating kids – particularly those who are already facing tough situations at home.

We need to invest in education. Assigning teachers and resources to schools based on the actual needs of students results in savings in social services.

It’s not hard to see why:

  • A 2011 article by economists at the University of Toronto and the Norweigan School of Economics found that “schooling fosters trust” and noted the “importance of trust in improving social interaction and fostering community involvement.” (Journal of Economic Perspectives)
  • Bullying can reduce a victim’s lifetime earnings by £50,000. One school-based anti-bullying program had a cost £15.50 per student, per year, but resulted in £1,080 worth of benefits for every student – even when averaged across all children, whether they’d been bullied or not. (London School of Economics and Political Science)
  • In the UK, one study found that preventing conduct disorders in a single child through early intervention leads to the equivalent in lifetime savings of $365,000 (CAD) – through health and criminal justice savings, plus increased earnings. (Mental Health Commission of Canada)

Building relationships with “hard-to-reach” students takes time, but it can make a lifelong difference.

No matter what kind of circumstances a student is facing at home, we can’t rely on a reactive approach – our education system needs to have the resources to pro-actively prevent and intervene in cases of violent or aggressive behaviour.

When we don’t budget enough human resources to make pro-active decisions about school safety, we aren’t saving money – we’re just passing an even bigger cost along to our justice and social systems.

Even educational resources that aren’t directly targeting violent and aggressive behaviour can save our justice system money, since education level is a major factor for crime.

In 2008, Pennsylvania State University researchers analyzed seven youth intervention programs, aiming to prevent community crime and delinquency. The programs showed evidence of producing positive benefits in terms of drug and mental health treatment, corrections and social services costs, and improved employment. All seven programs showed ROIs of $1 to $25, per dollar invested. (Canadian Policy Network)

Looking at the evidence, it’s hard to argue that cuts to education are a “cost-saving” measure.

A 2011 report from the Canadian Policy Network highlights the need for a broader approach to our growing mental health concerns: “For decision-makers, these findings show that… In the short term, a substantial investment of resources to get these programs running may be required in one sector (like education or social services), knowing full well that the payoffs (significant cost savings and better overall outcomes) will be realized largely in other sectors (such as criminal justice and health).”

Whether it’s academic, behavioural, emotional, or social… if our educational resources leave students with unmet needs, it affects the entire learning environment – and future – of every child.

Education affects our communities.

Investing in education saves money in justice and social spending.

And creating classrooms that promote a better future for every student…

 

Creates a big pay-off, for every single one of us.

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