The, seemingly age-old Smith County battle could wage on again come election time: new schools versus new jail.Meanwhile, Newsweek had a recent story focused on California and other states struggling to balance prison spending and higher education ("Classrooms or prison cells," June 28). According to Newsweek the issue is being raised by (among others) a prominent transplanted Texan:
Battle lines are already being drawn... ...and early... ...from the bench...
"If TISD puts on a bond election at the same time, then I see the jail failing," said Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton.
"Those cute little rosy-cheeked kids, or a bunch of people in our jail house? I know who they're going to vote for and so do you," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill McGinnis.
"They're going to win every time," said voter, Charles Smart. "They have so far."
Smart says if the last $60,000,000 jail plan was not up against Tyler ISD's nearly $125,000,000 plan, it may have passed.
The idea of another ballot face-off is weighing heavy.
It may seem odd that state funding for college kids often competes with money for prisoners, but if you track spending in California over the past 30 years, you’ll see evidence of a long-standing tug of war between these two very different constituencies. Over much of the past decade, funding for corrections has gone steadily up, while spending on state colleges has tumbled. “The state seems to be saying we have more of a future in prisons than in universities,” University of California president Mark Yudof said in a recent speech.Newsweek included this extraordinary graphic outlining the near-explicit tradeoff in California:
It would be quite a chore to compile the data, but given the expansion of Texas prisons in the past 30 years, plus the fact that Texas universities have become so much more tuition-reliant, I would be surprised if a comparable chart for Texas failed to display essentially similar trends.
Education, particularly higher ed, is an economic investment in human capital, while prisons remove workers and money from the economy and reduce overall consumption and production. So the question arises, when money is tight, where should the state prioritize its spending? Mass incarceration is a rich nation's game. When money is scarce and the tradeoff becomes explicit, investing in education over prisons makes a lot more sense.