Classrooms or Prison Cells?
June 28, 2010 Leave a comment
State spending on prisons has been growing and eating away at other priorities, like higher education. Now that’s beginning to change.
Faced with a $19 billion budget deficit this spring, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he was taking a cleaver to state health and welfare programs for the poor, the disabled, and the elderly. And rather than removing another slice from the state’s vaunted higher education system—which had already experienced years of reductions in state aid, ensuing tuition hikes, and student protests in response—budget cutters took more than $1 billion out of the state corrections programs, particularly prison health care.
It may seem odd that state funding for college kids often competes with money for prisoners, but if you track spending in California over the past 30 years, you’ll see evidence of a long-standing tug of war between these two very different constituencies. Over much of the past decade, funding for corrections has gone steadily up, while spending on state colleges has tumbled. “The state seems to be saying we have more of a future in prisons than in universities,” University of California president Mark Yudof said in a recent speech.
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