Monday, July 17, 2006

Who Profits from Failing Schools? (part 1)

Recently I was asked the question, "What are you passionate about?"

My immediate reaction was, "Huh?"
The question was clarified, "What gets you going, gets your blood boiling, motivates you to take action?"

"Gee...That could be a number of things, but I guess the common denominator would be injustice. You know, when somebody is getting screwed...bullied, conned, neglected or abused. Anytime the powerful take advantage of the less powerful; those things incite my passion."

For a long time I have been disturbed by the glaring failures of the city schools, and the subsequent effects on the economy. I have been doing a lot of research lately, and want to share some interesting statistics with you.

Budget Priorities: Education vs. Incarceration

• First year that the 50 states combined spent more on building prisons than colleges: 1995
• Number of state universities built in California, 1984-1994: 1
• Number of prisons built in California, 1984-1994: 21
• Increase in corrections spending in New York between 1984 and 1994: $761 million
• Decrease in spending on state colleges and universities in New York between 1984 and 1994: $615 million
• Average percent increase in state spending on higher education, 1985-2000: 29%
• Average percent increase in state spending on corrections, 1985-2000: 175%
• Number of African-American men in prison or jail, 2000: 602,900
• Number of African-American men in higher education, 2000: 603,032
• Increase in African-American male prison population, 1980-2000: 460,000
• Increase in African-American male higher education population, 1980-2000: 139,293

This page is an excerpt from The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (2003) by Peter Wagner, published by the Western Prison Project and the Prison Policy Initiative. Footnotes for all facts are available in the print version available for online order.
Prison Policy Initiative, PO Box 127, Northampton MA 01061
(413) 527-1333

The following statistics are taken from The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) report Cellblocks or Classrooms? The report, released locally by Policy Matters Ohio, found that Ohio’s corrections budget skyrocketed between 1985 and 2000, while increases in higher education spending lagged. Other Ohio findings include:

From 1985 to 2000, Ohio increased spending on corrections at five times the rate that it increased spending on higher education. Higher education spending increased by 38% or $670 million while corrections spending skyrocketed by 211% or $1.026 billion. While Ohio spending on higher education ($2.432 billion) exceeded what was spent on corrections ($1.1512 billion) in 2000, over the last 15 years, spending on prisons grew at 5.5 times the rate of higher education.

In 2000, JPI estimates there were more African American men in Ohio’s prison system (23,200) than there were in Ohio’s colleges (20,074). This does not include most of the large numbers of African American male individuals incarcerated in jails in Ohio.

Between 1980 and 2000, African American men were added to Ohio’s prison system at 38 times the rate they were added to Ohio’s colleges.

Between 1992 and 2001 in Ohio, tuition increased by 32% at public four-year institutions (from $3,845 to $5,058) and by 26% at private four-year institutions (from $12,667 to $15,915). During these years, state spending on aid per student increased 62% (from $257 to $415). New students starting next week at Ohio State University will pay 19% more than new students paid last fall.

Ohio has the 10th highest university tuition in the country and is ranked 39th in the nation in the percentage of the population with a Bachelor’s degree (17%). Ohio ranks 40th nationally in public investment per full-time student.

The annual cost of incarcerating one person in an Ohio prison is $22,044. For the cost of incarcerating one person in Ohio, the state could pay the annual tuition of four students at a public university.

In 1996, Ohio had the 7th highest rate of non-violent drug admissions in the country. Drug offenses were responsible for 40% of admissions of African Americans to prison and 19% of white admissions.
From 1986-1996, the percentage of African Americans in prison for drug offenses increased by a staggering 213%; for whites, it increased by 23%.

A bachelor’s degree became more essential to economic well-being during the 1980s and 1990s in Ohio. Workers with only a high school diploma saw their wages drop by 13.9% in Ohio between 1979 and 2000. Even workers with 1-3 years beyond high school experienced an 8.7 % wage decline during this period. Only workers with a bachelor’s degree or more experienced wage growth between 1979 and 2000.

What the hell is going on? Why aren't more people outraged? Why aren't more of our politicians working on the remedy?

One thing I have learned from my life experience is this:
Anytime things don't make sense, ask this question: Who is profiting?
Isn't it time we started asking that question in Ohio? Why doesn't Ohio fix school funding? Who stands to profit from failing urban school districts?
Follow the money.


Anonymous said...

I'm outraged, It's why I'm working for Ted Strickland. Think how rapidly this picture will deteriorate if Blackwell were to be elected. Personally, I think no nonviolent drug offender should EVER be put in prison.

Anonymous said...

It's no coincidence that the state government has been in Republican hands since the 1990 election.

In governing, as in parenting, you can educate or you can punish. Philosophically, the GOP represents those who favor punishing, at whatever cost. Well, not "whatever cost" -- you've just added it up.