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Since the light for the philosophy “Greed is Good” was turned to green by Ronald Reagan 35 years ago, local and state governments have increased spending on putting people in jail three times more than they spend on educating the young—and old. Data from 1980 to 2013, according to the Department of Education, increased spending on putting people in the slammer by 324% while spending on education increased only 107%. In 2016 we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, civilized or not, with more than two million behind bars, and millions more on probation and parole. We have 150,000 serving life without parole and life sentences! And millions of outstanding warrants for minor offenses! The question our politicians and all of us should attempt to answer: Why do we have only five percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of the world’s population in the slammer? Are we that “crooked,” as the Donald might say? What are we doing wrong? All of our 50 states that actually have the constitutional responsibility to provide citizens with an adequate education have lower expenditure rates for PK-12 education than they have for locking people up and throwing the key away. And it actually takes more money to put a person in state pens for a year instead of paying annual tuition and living expenses at Penn State.
Seven states actually have increased “corrections” budgets more than five times as fast as they have for K-12 education budgets. In the political realm they are all classified as red Republican states: Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Texas reigns as champion of the prison expenditure class, where practically everybody can carry a Glock or an AR-15 in public, by increasing prison costs 850% over education costs in the last 30 years.
How We Can Keep People Out Of Prison
Our new Secretary of Education John King almost weeps when he talks about our failures to educate because of underfunding education: “I can’t think about their families, spouses, sons, daughters,– or about the art not created, the entrepreneurial ideas that may never reach the drawing board; the classrooms these Americans will never lead; and the discoveries they’ll never make.” Why? More than two-thirds of state prison inmates are high school dropouts. There are more black men ages 20-24 in jail than actually have a job. Department of Education research indicates that a 10% increase in high school graduation rates leads to a 9% decrease in the rates of criminal arrest, and reduces murder and assault rates by 20%. That proves increasing spending on education will help decrease the jail population.
The research report states emphatically: “Investments in education could provide a more positive and potentially more effective approach to both reducing crime and increasing opportunity among at-risk youth, particularly if in the PK-12 context the redirected funds are focused on high-poverty schools.” You do that by increasing teacher salaries and providing access to high-quality preschool programs. We have 56 million students and teachers during the weekday (one-sixth of our population) in schools that require $46 billion in construction and maintenance each year to maintain an adequate education on the world stage. We now face extremely tough competition from 34 nations in the world.
Most industrialized nations are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that examine educational progress each year through its annual “Education at a Glance” report. It proves we are slipping at the preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Our colleges and universities are still competitive, but our students in the 16 to 19 age range are the most illiterate in OCED! While we enroll 43% of our three-year-olds in prekindergarten programs, the average enrollment in other OCED countries is 72%. We do increase enrollment for four-year-olds in prekindergarten programs to 66%, but the average for OCED nations is 88%. We invest only 0.4% of our Gross National Product in preschool programs while the OCED average investment is 0.6%. Iceland and Finland, education leaders in the OCED, spend 1%.
Are We Patriotic Only On The Fourth Of July?
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote about five principles of patriotism on July 4 that should be posted and enshrined on refrigerators and electronic signs in this country. It’s the best definition of real patriotism I’ve ever read, and I paraphrase:
1. True patriotism isn’t about waving the flag, or securing our borders, or putting up walls. It’s about coming together for the common good.
2. Patriotism is not cheap. It requires each of us to assume a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going. We should be willing to pay taxes in full rather than seeking tax loopholes in tax havens. We should all vote, but more importantly, we need to be politically active while volunteering time and energy to improving the country.
3. Patriotism is about preserving, fortifying, and protecting our democracy. It’s not about big money and buying politicians. It means defending the right to vote for more Americans, not fewer.
4. True patriots don’t hate the government and attempt to destroy it. The government is a tool to help solve problems together.
5. Patriots don’t pander to divisiveness, racism, sexism, homophobia, or religious and ethnic divisions. They strengthen, confirm, and celebrate the “we” in “we the people of the United States.” Compare the political platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties on these issues.
While Hedge Fund Billionaires Hide Money In Tax Havens, Detroit Kids Have To Pee In School Alleys
While Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder of the Blackstone Group and CEO of the largest private equity firm in the U.S. , hides some of his $10 billion personal fortune in overseas tax havens, some public schools in Detroit have been so poorly maintained they have no usable bathrooms. Students have to hold their body wastes all day or sneak out during the school day to pee in the school alleys. Schwarzman continually bitches about the income taxes he pays, while, because of tax loopholes created by a beneficent Congress, he actually pays at a 20% rate, a rate much lower than his secretaries because of rules concerning carried interest. Hedge fund owners bought Congress for $3.2 billion in lobbying last year. Schwarzman spent $5 million on his birthday in 2015 while he collected $88.3 million in carried interest beyond his billion-dollar salary. About 2,000 hedge fund people in the U.S. are eligible for the “carried interest” boondoggle. The rule saves them between $10 billion to $12 billion a year in taxes. Estimates are that all of the municipal water problems in the U.S. could be fixed with that money. Perhaps we could fix all of the public school bathrooms and leaky roofs also.
While the One Percent increased their wealth by 7.7% last year, many high schools with black and Latino majorities in the U.S. could not afford to offer chemistry, physics, and advanced math classes, necessary for admittance to most colleges and universities. Students in Kansas have fundraisers to fix bathrooms because Republicans have cut school funding beyond the bone marrow. The city controller of Philadelphia has declared a school emergency because schools are in a “dangerous condition” and many bathrooms are not functioning.
Meanwhile the One Percent are reserving rooms for their pets in luxury pet hotel franchises. The rich fly their dogs to the Scottsdale franchise in private jets. The Hollywood franchise picks up client dogs for the weekend in chauffeur-driven Porsches, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces. The Manhattan franchise will even furnish a Ferrari or Lamborghini for dog pickups. Doggy rooms, complete with flat screens, toys, music, and often room service at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., are available for between $84 and $200 a night. In the $200 room the dog’s favorite toys are arranged on the dog’s bed—and labeled with their names. The Fido spa offers haircuts, both punk and Mohawk, dyes, “pawdicures,” nail polishes, and fragrant colognes. The dogs, sorted by size and attitudes, can socialize with one another in special rooms, use treadmills in doggy exercise rooms, or go for a walk with a handler. We now spend $62 billion a year on pet care. Living in this Fido Ghetto is a real dog’s life.
Meanwhile, Back In The Public Schools………
Since almost every child has been left behind by George Bush’s education program that would have closed every public school in the country by 2014 if he had had his way, many states have been disinvesting in all levels of education since greed has been declared good. I have always said, “Poor George was not dumb, he never made an effort to know anything.” Most of these states have been governed by Republican governors and legislatures who want to blow up the “government” schools, privatize them, introduce vouchers and more selective charter schools, and “home school” millions to attain complete scientific ignorance.
Children fail to learn in poor families because of a lousy environment, and fail to learn in schools which are poorly funded. Constant testing has proven one thing in education: money equals knowledge. This is true in every industrialized country in the world. The haves get the good scores, the have-nots get the low scores. Look at fourth grade reading levels by income. Research indicates family income determines that 80% of lower income students in the U.S. are deficient in reading while higher income students are 49% deficient. In Minnesota the scores are 77% and 48%. In North Dakota the scores are 78% and 60%. Minnesota has a higher rate of wealthy students. That makes it quite evident that all that oil money that was going to make everybody in the West rich is actually going to families out-of-state.
Education is actually quite expensive in the United States because large corporations have been importing foreign cheap labor by the millions for years. If The Donald deported 11 million illegals as he has promised, our meatpacking, food, and hotel industries would have to close down. The Fargo-Moorhead Metro Area currently has thousands of students who go home each night to parents from dozens of countries speaking 71 different languages. Do you recognize Telegu, Cushitic, Nuer, Bantu, Lingala, or Tigrinya? I thought so. Educating 675 K-12 students in the metro area to speak English who speak Somalian at home is complex, exciting, and expensive. Once when President Charles DeGaulle of France was having a bad day, he was heard to murmur: “How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?” Educating a diverse culture with 71 different languages is just as complicated, particularly when art, physical education, music classes, and even recess were replaced by non-learning weeks of testing during the Leave No Child Behind years. And, for the first time in history, more than half of our public school students in the U.S. qualify for free or subsidized school lunches.
Education At All Levels Is In Crisis
I have spent forty years in education, teaching and administering students from kindergarten to doctorate level. I have had the pleasure and the heartaches associated with students classified as being “dumb” who have led rich, full lives—and students who have been classified as geniuses who have struggled to make a living and have committed suicide. The public schools are in crisis because of inadequate funding. Counting a constant for inflation, public school teachers have not gotten a raise in 15 years. Most states are spending less per student now than they did in 2008, the “end” of the Great Recession. Actually, per-pupil spending has decreased for the last three years in a row. We have a Republican Party that wants to turn public schools into charters or provide vouchers to all students so they can afford to attend private schools. A Tea Party head in Pennsylvania stated: “We think public schools should go away.” The Walton Family, Bill Gates, and many hedge fund billionaires think so, too.