Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Hidden Costs of Funding Prisons Instead of Schools

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Hidden Costs of Funding Prisons Instead of Schools

Article excerpt

Lawmakers in 11 states are spending more on prisons and jails than their public colleges, according to a report compiled by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

According to the report, state budgets for public universities have been cut about 20 percent since 2008 when recession hit, while funding for prisons has spiked 141 percent.

That's solving the wrong side of the problem, argued Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a speech this week. "The linkage between education, or a lack thereof, and incarceration is powerful," he said.

"More than two-thirds of state prison inmates are high school dropouts," said Secretary Duncan, "and an African-American male between the ages of 20 and 24 without a high school diploma or GED has a higher chance of being imprisoned than of being employed."

A 2014 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows a direct correlation between increased prison spending and cuts in education. Not surprisingly, states with the highest incarceration rates pull the most money from their schools.

And that drives up tuition at public universities, reports CNN. State funding "accounts for about half of a typical school's budget," CNN reports. "The other half comes from the federal government and tuition and fees."

According to the new AAAS report, the states that spend more on prisons than universities are Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, Vermont, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Earlier this week, Duncan proposed that if states spent more money on educating students, they would save on prison costs.

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club in Washington, he proposed taking $15 billion from correctional facilities and instead allocating it to raising teacher salaries and funding mentor teachers in states' most under-resourced schools. …

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