The U.S. Department of Education, Policy and Program Studies Service released a brief examining State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education in the last 33 years and the statistics are terrifying. Barbara Petersen, APS Board Member, notes “New Mexico is second only to Texas in the difference between the increase in prison spending to education spending, 668 percentage points difference in the increases in Texas, 602 percentage points difference in the increases in New Mexico.”
“Over the last three decades, state and local corrections expenditures has increased three times faster than spending on elementary and secondary education” (p. 5).
From 1979 to 2013, New Mexico:
- state and local corrections current expenditures and public PK–12 current expenditures had a 602% difference in percent change (p. 6)
- state and local corrections current expenditures per capita and PK–12 current expenditures had a 286% difference per pupil (p. 8)
New Mexico spent $3,099,308,151 on PK-12 expenditures (a 102% change from 1979) and $608,867,000 on State and Local Corrections Expenditures (a 704% change from 1979). New Mexico is incarcerating more people because the state is spending less on education.
And, in case you were wondering, New Mexico spends over four times more per prisoner than student each year.
A study by the National Education Association (NEA) found that New Mexico spends just $10,089 per student (11% below the national average)- less than half of Vermont, the state with the largest per-student commitment and just a little more than states like Arizona and Utah which close out the bottom at just over $7,000 per student.
By comparison, New Mexico’s Corrections Department reports that “the cost per day to house an inmate in state prison (public and private combined) is an average of $123 per day, or about $45,250 per year.”
Incarceration rates have “more than quadrupled over the past few decades…despite large decreases in crime rates” (p.2). The report goes on to state: “A variety of studies have suggested that investing more in education, particularly targeted toward at-risk communities, could achieve crime reduction without the heavy social costs that high incarceration rates impose on individuals, families, and communities” (p.2). If policy leaders understood the connection between schools and incarceration, would they spend more on public education?
The message is clear: the New Mexico education system has been neglected for decades because the incarceration rate and the costs for our prisons are rising at a dramatic rate.
- Learn more about New Mexico criminal justice reform:
- Are out-of-state private prison companies influencing Doña Ana County Sheriff?
U.S. Department of Education, Policy and Program Studies Service. (July 2016). State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education. Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/expenditures-corrections-education/brief.pdf