Where Do Our Priorities Lie (by Guest Blogger Dakota Ortega)

money-bagsAccording to research, only 48 percent of poor children are ready to learn at age 5 compared to 75 percent of children from moderate to high income families. The 25 percent from moderate to high income families that are not ready at age 5 shows that money doesn’t necessarily solve all issues; however, it is a prominent factor when comparing school readiness between the poor and moderate to high income families. Children’s lack of school readiness has its repercussions in later development, such as students who are not ready to learn at a young age have led to high school dropout rates, which are happening every 8 seconds in our nation. If high school students that dropped out in 2011 had graduated, then the nation would have benefitted from about $154 billion in additional income.

However, when we look at incarceration rates in Oregon for example, we are spending $30,000 per inmate compared to $10,000 per Student. Over the next decade, Oregon expects to spend an additional cost of $600 million as the prison population grows. Not only is this happening in the state of Oregon but we are spending more on prisons than schools across our nation.


Do you think we prioritize prisons over our schools? Why/Why not? What are your thoughts on investing in children’s school readiness and will this have an impact on incarceration rates? Other thoughts on what we have to do to foster children’s school readiness and development?



11 thoughts on “Where Do Our Priorities Lie (by Guest Blogger Dakota Ortega)

  1. It is easier to see the results of reactive policies than preventative policies. That makes them easier to “sell”. It is the difference between washing your hands frequently and getting medication after you get sick. Prisons are the antibiotic.to the infection in our school systems.

    • And just like an antibiotic, if you use it too much, it takes a heavier dosage to do the trick. Which is why communities with a very prevalent crime culture continue in that way – they’re desensitized to the threat of incarceration.

  2. We absolutely put prisons over schools in our society, which is completely ridiculous. What’s worse is that our prison population is so overcrowded that we constantly “have” to build new prisons. Just think, we could be educating those inmates for 25% of the cost of keeping them locked up.

  3. I don’t think that there is a priority over prisons, it’s just expected that all these low income kids will end up there so more money is put there which is ridiculous. There are also so many crimes that really aren’t that bad and people should not be in jail for. So there are all these issues that are making it more expensive for prisons, but not necessarily having it be a priority over education. But yes, if more money was put into education to help those who are struggling and thinking of dropping out to graduate, then there would be less incarceration rates for sure. Students who have a diploma and are more up to par with their peers feel better about themselves and savor their lives more because they feel they have meaning (like going to college and doing something with themselves). It’s hard because the people in jail have to be fed 3 times a day and are being housed there so it is more expensive per person (being 24/7 versus 6ish/5). If you think about it that way, the $30,000 versus $10,000 makes sense, but is sad.

    • Lindsay makes some really good points. Low income children are definitely more likely to be incarcerated and the money seems to follow them into the prison system. As you mentioned about people going to jail for petty crimes, I agree that in some states there are police quotas, which has been coming up a lot in the media lately. Although it is named differently because it is considered illegal to have such quotas because it promotes crime and corruption, some police officials are trying to meet these quotas by arresting and giving out more tickets, given that the state is making money from these arrests and tickets. I think that the disinvestments in our schools are costing us more and are resulting in the state looking elsewhere for revenue, such as the prison systems. I also think that there is some stability in prisons and jails because they are being fed 3 meals a day and individuals have a place to sleep and/or exercise, hence the $30,000 per individual and 24/7 care; however, low income children who attend school for 6-8 hours a day and leave may not have a home to go to and/or a meal to eat later that day. It is pretty disheartening.

  4. I am going to echo my conspiracy theorist father (which actually freaks me out) and say that I believe prioritzing prisons over schools and educations is the white, elite, 1%–those holding on to the nation’s money–doing anything and all things to keep themselves wealthy.
    What happens if they educate all people? They give people access to knowledge that will make them the millionairs personally, that is, knock that 1% from their place of power. NCLB? Another tactic! Standardized testing works for white, affluent children who have all of the support they need to ace standardized tests. Poorer minority children do not. And then take it back to the creation of the United States, when the eduaction of slaves was forbidden, as a means keeping them subordinate…It seems not much has changed.
    Educate people and you give them power. THAT is something that 1% CANNOT afford.

  5. Yeah at times I do think that we put prisons over our schools but that is another whole big mess we have to deal with. I think there needs to be funds and programs for students set up to become school ready even if its for once a week or a one time thing to allow young children to sit in a classroom and to understand what they will be doing come fall and give parents resources they can use to help prepare their children for school because preschool and other programs are expensive. As for foster children I have no idea what programs are set up to prepare kids for school I hope so because that is important.

  6. I’m glad that the country is starting to see that early childhood education is a good investment. Getting these kids ready ahead of time will keep them in school and out of jail later on. It not so much that we are prioritizing prisons over schools with the amount of money we invest, it is just that prisons are more expensive to run. Unlike in schools prisons run 24 hours, the use up more electricity, water, and gas. Prisoners get fed three meals a day and each prisoner needs their own place to live in which accounts for more space that needs to be paid for. Add that on to all the other miscellaneous expenses and you’ve got a system that needs more money to operate than a school does. But, more investment into a better preventative program would definitely save on those expenses later on.

    • I completely agree with you rose! I don’t think people actually realize the cost of education compared to the cost of incarceration. It needs to be made more public! A lot of people don’t realize the importance of school and how vital it is on a child’s life and future. If we can do one thing to help minimize the chance of a child going down a bad path, then we need to act on it! Education is the most important start to a child’s life, it is how they start that effects how it will end.

  7. This could not be a more backwards and flawed way of approaching the education vs. prison issue. I cannot believe the difference in dollars per person spent on a prisoner compared to a student. We are more focused on corrective than preventative. This baffles me.

    Early childhood education is something I keep defaulting back to when I read posts like this. The importance of ECE is so incredibly vital and real that I can’t begin to express it enough. If it were up to me, every dollar available would be put toward the development, accessibility, and funding of early childhood education. Who’s with me?

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