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Budget Reform to Save Future Generations

In times of tight budgets, states need to make tough decisions in funding. One classic debate centers around whether to build prisons or schools. The good news for citizens is that prison counts have been at its lowest in thirty years. This matter on the surface should not concern the population since it is good news, but the money that is put into correctional facilities is immense, and it is taking over educational budgets and robbing children throughout America . There are billions of dollars that are used to operate a detention facility. That includes construction, health care, maintenance, parole/probation, and educational programs to increase the chances of finding a trade. Prisoners live a worry free and steady life. Even after prison, when they are placed back into society, they are guarded by the probation system.

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The probation system is also very costly. However, many critics argue that spending all this money on prisons will keep children in the future from achieving their full potential. In addition, the system prioritizes correctional methods while the prisoners make no contributions. The money in the system is not spent adequately into education, and that is what really matters in the long run. Less money should be spent on prisons and more money should go towards educating the future leaders of America.

Over the years, the rates of inmates in prison have decreased. According to the “Prison Count 2010” a survey that was done showed that in January 2010 there was a national total of 1,404,053 incarcerated under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities. In comparison to the December 31, 2008 count that totaled 4,777 fewer inmates. January 2010 records proved the decline for the first year to year drop in state prison populations since 1972. The study indicated that prison population declined in 26 states and increased in 24 states; the good news for the community is that it is becoming a safer environment to live (Prison Count 2010). The money that is freed up can be used to better schools.

Building prisons costs taxpayers lots of money. In the year 1980, 36% of prisons were being built in rural areas. According to Calvin Beale, a senior demographer with the Economic Research Service of the U.S Department of Agriculture, “Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s, an average of just four new prisons had been built in rural areas each year. During the 1980’s that figure increased to an annual average of 16 and in the 1990’s it jumped to 25 new prisons annually. Between 1990 and 1999, 245 prisons were built in rural and small town communities” (Huling).

Construction cost for 800 local, state, and federal corrections cost on average $5 billion for 25-50 beds (“A Glimpse Behind Bars”). The cost to build prisons in metropolitan, state and rural areas is drastically high and the number of prisons expanding are increasing throughout the years. Instead of spending revenues for prison expansion, construction cost should go into needy classrooms and new schools.

America spends $60 billion to incarcerate 2.2 million people. The cost for each person is roughly $79 per day, approximately $29,000 a year towards clothing, food, and guards. The State provides $3.3 billion annually in health care. That is 10% of the states official budget (Warren). The cost of keeping a prisoners can be outrageous. Some states pay even more for prisoner’s healthcare. According to staff writer for the Pew Charitable Trust in Washington D.C, Sunny Kaplan, “Texas with the highest rate of incarceration in the country pays nearly $270 million for inmate health care per year—about $2,150 per inmate.” Health care is crucial in any correctional facility because of the rising cases of tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, meningitis, and other chronic illnesses. It would be unethical to keep prisoners in environments where diseases spread.

The costs just keep piling up, but sometimes prisoners working in prison can keep some costs down. In addition, prison maintenance fees per adult prison comes to be at least $9,439 (Fangmeier). Most of the inmates obtain a maintenance job with wages being .50- $1.00. In this case, this is the only reason why maintenance fees aren’t extreme.

Prisoners that are released are given parole, and this too is costly. When they are done with their sentence or given a chance in count of good behavior they are put in probation or parole. While on probation or parole, an ex-inmate is placed back into the community and diligently supervised. In 2008, $2.52 billion was spent on probation and parole officers (Riordan). In reference to The Pew Charitable Trusts report, “Explosive growth in the number of people on probation or parole has propelled the population of the American corrections system to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 30 U.S adults” (Riordan). Even after prison, ex-inmates still cost the system billions.

Inmates are given a chance to get educated while students that should have education lack accommodation. One out of six inmates reported dropping out of school because of devious behavior that concluded in incarceration. One-third of them said that, “The main reason they quit school was because of academic problems, behavior problems, or lost of interest” (Wolf Harlow). Nine out of ten correctional facilities provide educational programs for the vast majority facing a sentence more than a year.

Six out of ten educational programs were offered for inmates with a short-term sentence. In fact, a writer from The Boston Globe, Derrick Z. Jackson, stated that “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California said that in the last 30 years, prison spending increased from three percent of the state general fund to eleven percent while higher education spending declined from 10 percent to 7.5 percent.” Some inmates take advantage of this opportunity and some await freedom to continue the cycle of bad behavior Indeed, prison programs provide a bright future for inmates while higher education funds decline. This should not be the targeted group being educated for a future foundation.

In contrast, instead of spending all this money, there are many students with goals and ambitions of success whom our country could invest in. Other students are in need of help and resources to gain competency. Although the system does not grant this opportunity for future generations, and are left with no funds and help towards achieving higher education. Funding in the educational system is not enough to supply for the most current equipment and textbooks. Public elementary and secondary schools are in a financial crisis. The average cost per student is $9,683 which includes food throughout the day. Teachers salaries comes out to be on average of $45,308 (“Fast Facts“). This is not enough for a student to experience and obtain the best education possible.

Most of the schools lack money from the federal government and the little money that educational systems receive is what they must learn to work with. Additionally, the budget in 2006-2007 was $562.3 billion dollars. Three out of five dollars were spent on teachers, $145 billion for instructional aids and $36 billion for staff. Ten billion went towards textbooks and six billion went for services and equipment. For students in need of transportation an average of $779 was spent per pupil. The state revenue provides most of the money for education. Governments budget contributes only 8.3% of public schools K-12 (Johnson). Literally, only seven cents per dollar and a total of twenty seven billion a year goes towards schools from the federal government.

With tight finances, students have been jammed into classrooms with the number of twenty-five students per classroom and one teacher who must teach multiple subjects and get educate students. Overpopulation is a major concern and if it is not fixed it can conclude in less academic achievement and soaring drop-out rates. It is hard to imagine how everyone can be educated equally in such an environment, and to top it off students must be tested to determine how much funds their pertaining school should receive.

No student deserves to be judged by a statistical test that determines the money schools receive. The Academic Performance Index (API) is an academic measure that records performance and improvements of schools based on a variety of subject test. The higher the scores, the more money the school receives and the lower the scores, the lower the amount of money. This is the way the state and federal government assesses the insignificant amount of assistance. The lower the scores, the lower the money makes no sense. Funds should be equally distributed and not based on a test. This is not fair for schools that lack competency because they are being left behind instead of helped out.

It all comes down to the government and state system decisions. With the billions of dollars that they can provide to citizens, they chose to improvise the evasive people. Prisoners cost approximately $29,000 per inmate, and concludes towards most of food, clothing, and guards (Warren). Health care is not included, about ten-twelve percent of the state budget goes towards their well being. To construct a prison itself is expensive. Building twenty-five to fifty beds in only 800 prisons takes about five billion dollars. Maintenance is partial in the budget since prisoners obtain this job position with little wages. This is not the only cost. Parole and probation is granted for those who complete the sentence or for those who are recognized for good behavior. Just another cost, even if they are out. Education in prisons is also available. While in prison you can get your G.E.D, start vocational classes to learn a trade or even take college credit courses. Sounds too good to be true when education for the youth is lacking. Students receive insufficient amounts that does not cover what education really cost. Preparing a child to enter adulthood takes more than $9,683 dollars.

America lacks governmental help with only twenty seven billion dollars spent towards schools. The consequences of this unattended matter has been overpopulation due to not building more schools and high drop out rates because with only one teacher per class, a student cannot receive the correct attention. The Academic Performance Index (API) is not an effective tool to evaluate how much money children and adolescences need in their school. Not giving schools money because of low test scores is not the solution. Everyone deserves to be given an opportunity of success. America needs to think twice before spending billions of dollars in prisons. It is time to recognize what education can do for the future and prioritize funds for schools.

Works Cited
“A Glimpse Behind Bars.” library.thinkquest.org. The United States Prison System, n.p. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. Fangmeier, Robert. “Myths and Realities About Prisons and Jails.” religion-online.org.
Christian Century, 19 March 1980. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. “Fast Facts.” nces.ed.gov. U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. N.p. 2010. Web. 28 Feb.2011. Huling, Tracy. “Building a Prison Economy in Rural America.” prisonpolicy.org. Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment, n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2010. Jackson, Derrick. “Common Sense on Prison, Education Funds.” commondreams.org. The Boston Globe. 09 Jan. 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2011. Johnson, Frank. “U.S. Education Spending.” policyalmanac.org. U.S Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 16 May 2002. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. Kaplan, Sunny. “Health Care Cost Rising As Prison Population Grows and Ages.” stateline.org. The Pew Charitable Trust, 24 June 1999. Web. 06 Feb. 2011. “Prison Count 2010.” pewcenteronthestates.org. Pew Full Report, 01 April 2010. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. Riordan, Jessica. “One in 31 U.S. Adults are Behind Bars, on Parole or Probation.” pewtrust.org. Press Release. The Pew Charitable Trust, 02 Mar. 2009. Web. 06 Feb. 2011. Warren, Jennifer. “High Cost of Prison Not Paying Off, Report Finds.” Como dreams.org. Los Angeles Times. 08 June 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2011. Wolf Harlow, Caroline. “Education and Correctional Populations.” bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov. U.S Department of Justice, n.p. 15 Apr. 2003. Web. 06 Feb. 2011.

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