Trends in State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education

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Author(s): The U.S. Department of EducationPolicy and Program Studies Service

Published: July 7, 2016

Report Intro/Brief:
“This policy brief examines state-by-state trends to compare the extent to which state and local governments are investing in education and in corrections. More specifically, this brief uses extant data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, and other sources to present a snapshot of the changes in state and local expenditures for corrections and education between two points in time — 1979–80 to 2012–13 — both nationally and by state.


  • From 1979–80 to 2012–13, public PK–12 expenditures increased by 107 percent(from $258 to $534 billion),4 while total state and local corrections expendituresincreased by 324 percent (from $17 to $71 billion) ― triple the rate of increase ineducation spending.
  • Over the same 33-year period, the percentage increase in state and localcorrections expenditures varied considerably across the states, ranging from 149percent in Massachusetts to 850 percent in Texas. PK–12 expenditure growth rateswere considerably lower, but still varied widely across states, ranging from 18percent in Michigan to 326 percent in Nevada.
  • All states had lower expenditure growth rates for PK–12 education than forcorrections, and in the majority of the states, the rate of increase for correctionswas more than 100 percentage points higher than the rate for education.
  • When expenditures were adjusted for population change, the increases in bothstate and local corrections expenditures and PK–12 education expenditures weresmaller. However, even after accounting for changes in population, growth incorrections expenditures outpaced PK–12 spending growth in all but two states.
    • In 24 states, the growth rate in per capita corrections spending was more than100 percentage points higher than the rate for per-pupil PK–12 educationspending.
    • After adjusting for population change, a few states had similar growth ratesfor corrections and education spending, and two states actually increased per-pupil expenditures on PK–12 education faster than per capita correctionsspending.
  • From 1989–90 to 2012–13, 46 states reduced higher education appropriations perfull-time equivalent (FTE) student. On average, state and local higher educationfunding per FTE student fell by 28 percent, while per capita spending oncorrections increased by 44 percent.”

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