U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is urging lawmakers to start investing more in education instead of incarceration. Speaking before the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on Sept. 30, Duncan recommended that cutting down on the amount of non-violent offenders being placed in prison will create savings that can be invested in education.
According to Education Week, the U.S. Department of Education has calculated that if states and localities reduced the amount of non-violent offenders being placed in prison, they would save $15 billion.
Duncan argues that those savings should then be used to increase wages for teachers working in impoverished communities.
"That sort of investment wouldn’t just make teachers and struggling communities feel more valued,” says Duncan. “It would have ripple effects on our economy and our civic life.
“This is not about being soft on dangerous criminals -- this is about finding ways, consistent with wise criminal justice policies, to reapportion our resources so we prevent crime in the first place."
The Huffington Post reports that Duncan’s plan is designed to end the phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline. The argument is that harsh disciplinary actions are pushing kids out of school and into a life of crime. The majority of state prison inmates are high school dropouts.
Duncan stresses that racial minorities are being hurt the most by the school-to-prison pipeline, according to The Washington Post.
“As long as children in Ferguson (Mo.) are getting less than half the money as children in wealthier communities, we’re going to have a lot of challenges, and we’re going to leave a lot of talent on the sidelines,” Duncan says.
The Washington Post also reports that Duncan wants voters to apply pressure on politicians.
“I would love the media to ask four questions,” says Duncan. “‘What are you doing to increase investment in early childhood education? What are you doing to reduce high school dropout rates? What are you doing to increase high school graduation rates? What’s your plan to increase college graduation rates?’”
According to the Huffington Post, funding for U.S. prisons has increased more than its education system over the last few years.