Vol. #60: Save Your Wallet Fiscal Conservatives! Invest in Education!

The current misguided philosophy is that tax payers are paying for “results” (ie: standardized testing scores) out of their teachers. Besides the simple fact that standardized tests don’t measure educational quality, it’s approaching the funding of education completely wrong. You are not buying a result, you are investing in one.

Fiscal conservatives, please listen up: Funding education is an investment that will pay you back in spades. And I don’t mean that hippie-dippy, “the world will just be a better place” crap you may not believe in…you will be better off financially.

Consider a few points from this CBS article titled, “High School Dropouts Costly for American Economy””

  • Dropouts cost taxpayers more than $8 billion annually in public assistance programs.
  • Dropouts earn about $10 thousand less a year than workers with diplomas. That’s $300 billion in lost earnings every year.
  • They’re more likely to be unemployed: 15 percent are out of work versus a national average of 9.4 percent.
  • They also are more likely to be incarcerated. Almost 60 percent of federal inmates are high school drop-outs.

I have often heard that for every dollar that is spent in education, we will save ten dollars down the line in the prison system. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, considering this Forbes article titled, “A $5 Children’s Book vs. a $47,000 Jail Cell — Choose One”:

  • “Texas uses fourth grade reading scores to project the number of prison cells they’re going to need 10 years later.”
  • 60% of America’s prison inmates are illiterate
  • 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.
  • It costs approximately $47,000 per inmate per year to keep a young (and relatively healthy) inmate locked up.

 “Can’t Read? Let’s Build You A Prison Cell” says while reading scores to project the numbers of prisons is an urban myth:

“In 2011 the Annie E. Casey Foundation report “Early Warning! Why reading by the end of third grade matters” showed definitively that low-income children who are not reading on grade level by 3rd grades are six times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers are. And low-income children of color who are not at grade level by 3rd grade? Eight times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Meanwhile, my state is cutting teachers’ assistants at those grades to “help” the bottom line. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

What does the difference in cost look like to you, the tax payer, in your state?

studentvsprisoner
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And just in case you thought it was “different money”…

“Analysis by the National Association of State Budget Officers shows that elementary and high schools receive 73 percent of their state funding from this discretionary fund; colleges and universities count on the fund for half of their budgets. However, $9 out of every $10 that support imprisonment come from the same pot of money.”

Beside the cost of prison, there’s the fact that citizens will be gainfully employed, paying their share of taxes on their higher income, happier and more fulfilled… no, I forgot, we aren’t factoring in that last part.

So, the question is, do you want to spend money to educate a citizen, or what in my state is over three times as much to imprison one?

Which one makes fiscal sense?

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