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Corrections Spending Has Outpaced Education for Three Decades

Corrections’ budgets at the state and local level “have increased about three times as fast as spending on elementary and secondary education,” according to a U.S. Department of Education report.

There was 107 percent increase in PK-12 public education budgets from 1979-80 to 2012-13. Over the same period, corrections’ budgets saw a 324 percent rise.

Adjustments for population changes narrowed the gap to a 2-to-1 margin nationwide, the report noted, but “even after accounting for changes in population, growth in corrections expenditures outpaced PK-12 spending growth in all but two states [Massachusetts and New Hampshire].”

Texas saw the sharpest corrections’ budget increase (850 percent) compared to a 182 percent rise in education spending over the same period.

This increase led the nation over the past three decades even though the state enacted a series of reforms in 2007 to address overcrowded prisons and its growing corrections’ budget.

“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.

The necessity of criminal justice reform and the need to increase education spending were focal points for many governors in their 2014, 2015 and 2016 State of the State addresses.

The full report is available here.

Editor’s note: “Through the Door,” EthicsDaily.com’s documentary on faith and prisons, highlights the faith community’s engagement with prisons (including inmates and officers, being in prison and out, both charity and justice). Learn more about the film and watch video clips here. Order a copy on DVD here.