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Prison Versus Education: NAACP Report Spotlights Spending, Population Ratios

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The NAACP's "Misplaced Priorities" LA County data map
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Today the NAACP released a report called "Misplaced Priorities," which "examines America's escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children." Among the six cities explored in the report is Los Angeles, where "more than a billion taxpayer dollars are spent every year to incarcerate people from Los Angeles neighborhoods where less than 20 percent of Los Angeles residents live."

One of the focal points of the report is the contrast between the education system and the prison system, particularly in spending and population distribution. For example, in Los Angeles, the NAACP reports that " 69 of the 90 (67 percent) low performing schools are in neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates. By contrast, 59 of the city's 86 high performing schools (68 percent) are in neighborhoods with the lowest incarceration rates."

Further, what happens in the LA school system affects state politics and finances: "The Los Angeles school system is ground zero for the California budget meltdown," notes the report.

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Courtesy NAACP
Unfortunately, how curtailed education spending, increased class sizes, fewer teachers, and fewer enriching school programs affects the population is a long-run kind of scenario, where the results unfold as they happen: "How is school success affected by these policy choices and spending patterns? There is no way to definitively know in real time. It will be years before we can analyze the impact of these cuts on student achievement in Los Angeles schools."To draw attention to the report and its findings, the NAACP have put up a billboard that denotes that in the U.S. we are home to 25% of the world's prisoners, but just 5% of the world's population.