Inmates and Correctional Officers Are a Bigger Budget Priority Than Your Students and Their Teachers

Inmate Versus Student Investment In California Should Horrify You!

“It costs an average of about $71,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California.”

According the Legislative Analyst Office, this is the current average cost per year per inmate in California. Meanwhile, here’s we spend on students:

“California ranked 46th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., spending $8,694 per student – $3,462 less than the national average of $12,156 per student.”

That statement is from the California Budget and Policy Center. However, the numbers change depending on who you ask.

The California Department of Education per pupil by County can be found here if you are interested in looking at the cost in your local school district.  

So, let’s use the average ADA of $10,500.00 per student versus $71,000.00 per inmate. The amount of the gap between the two who wholly finance a four-year degree at a UC or CSU. We are okay with spending about $60,000.00 (nearly 7 times more) per year more on an inmate than a child’s education. Are we really okay with that?

And consider this — Correctional Officers do not require a college degree. A high school diploma is all that required. The average starting salary of a correctional officer is $54,000.00 base.  Correctional Officer also make quite a bit more due to overtime and bonuses. Meanwhile, average teacher starting salary is $34,000. No overtime or bonus pay is available for teachers, who often spend time outside of the classroom grading, preparing lessons, and calling and emailing parents. That’s a minimum of $20,000.00 difference and zero post-secondary education versus six years average of college for teaching. Are you disgusted yet?    

So how do we change this? How do we make education a higher fiscal priority? We have passed bills and measures that indicate that we are willing to pay more for education. What happens to the money that we keep designating for education?  

To add insult to injury, the prison system in California operates on a fluid budget system while education operates on a static budget. So basically, schools have a set budget they must adhere to while the Department of Corrections operates via a blank check policy.  

If this state ever wants to get serious about education, policymakers will have to find a way to stand up to the CCPOA (California Correctional and Peace Officers Association) and step up for the kids in California.     

[See national education funding here.]


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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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