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Corrections Spending Grows at Triple the Rate of School Funding, Ed. Dept. Reports

From 1979 to 2013, the growth in corrections spending by states and localities rose by 324 percent, compared to the 107 percent growth rate in money for education over the same period. 

That's according to a brief released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education. However, spending on pre-K-12 still far outpaces that spent on correctional facilities. The department reports that over this roughly 25-year time period, spending on corrections rose from $17 billion to $71 billion, while education spending rose from $258 billion to $534 billion, after adjusting for inflation. 

  • "Over the same 33-year period, the percentage increase in state and local corrections expenditures varied considerably across the states, ranging from 149 percent in Massachusetts to 850 percent in Texas. PK-12 expenditure growth rates were considerably lower, but still varied widely across states, ranging from 18 percent in Michigan to 326 percent in Nevada."
  • "All states had lower expenditure growth rates for PK-12 education than for corrections, and in the majority of the states, the rate of increase for corrections was more than 100 percentage points higher than the rate for education."
  • "In 24 states, the growth rate in per capita corrections spending was more than 100 percentage points higher than the rate for per-pupil PK-12 education spending."

The brief also broke down just how much the growth rate for corrections spending outpaced the growth funding for schools:


The growth gap between corrections and school spending was the largest in seven states—Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia—where money spent on corrections grew at five times the rate of money spent on education.

"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," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement accompanying the release of the department's brief.

Spending on corrections and its relationship to school funding has been a priority at the department for some time. Last September, in his last major speech before announcing his departure from the department, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a pitch to shift $15 billion in funding for prisons to pay for teacher salary increases instead. 

Read the full brief below:

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