States Overfund Prisons Yet Cannot Afford Teachers

April 19, 2011  |  

By J. Smith

Few will be surprised to learn that much of the United States bureaucracy places a higher priority on profitable institutions than silly ones like the public school system. However, a new report released by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People proves that state spending on prisons eclipsed state spending on higher education at a rate that has increased six times over the last two decades.

“Many of those incarcerated have low levels of educational attainment, high levels of unemployment and quite often are victims of substance abuse. Currently, there are over 2.3 million people in prison in America,” The Final Call reports.

So, does that mean that states are just lazy and see prisons as an easy alternative for low-income residents instead of working to improve the failing school systems? Or is it simply a business matter? The prison industrial complex is indeed highly lucrative, especially as many states suffer huge fiscal blows to their local economies. It makes more economic sense to grow a prison than it does to grow a preschool. It is rather convenient, however, that many of our social dilemmas can potentially produce more crime–such as piss-poor school systems, unemployment or drug abuse–which would in turn help boost the prison population, and ultimately, the state’s income. Or maybe it’s just straight up racism.

“Many cities across the U.S. are facing budgetary shortfalls, and as a result, teachers are being laid off, schools [are closing], extra-curricular programming [is getting] cut, and class size grows. An additionally troubling statistic is that in many major metropolitan areas with large black populations such as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Atlanta, high school dropout rates hover close to and surpass 50 percent in some cases,” the Final Call reports.

President Obama is set on “winning the future” through education, but how will he convince states to invest in education when prisons are so darn lucrative? More importantly, how will our nation compete when the next generation has a home-town government that could care less about schools when prisons are padding their pockets? Our kids will know how to shank somebody and have no clue how to spell shank.

The bright side to this tragic story is that the NAACP has a few unlikely supporters, including potential Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Read more: Overfunding Prisons While Neglecting Education

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