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School Funding Slow Compared to Prison Funding Growth

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School Funding Slow Compared to Prison Funding Growth

Over a 33-year span, state and local governments have increased spending on prisons and jails at three times the rate they have increased spending on preschool through 12th grade education, according to data released this month by the U.S. Department of Education.

From 1979–80 to 2012–13, public preschool through 12th grade expenditures increased by 107 percent (from $258 to $534 billion), while total state and local corrections expenditures increased by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion).

The expenditure rate for schools was lower than that for corrections in all 50 states. Seven states – Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia — increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as education budgets.

The numbers are even more startling when comparing higher education. According to the report, between 1989–90 and 2012–13, state and local higher education appropriations were nearly flat, while corrections expenditures grew by 90 percent.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. in a press release. “For far too long, systems in this country have continued to perpetuate inequity. We must choose to make more investments in our children’s future. We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”

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