Rate of spending on jails and prisons has outpaced school increases

Over the past three decades, Georgia has increased its spending on prisons and jails at a faster pace than spending on schools, says a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

In constant dollars, state and local spending on education rose 224 percent from 1979 to 2012 while spending on corrections jumped 468 percent.

"Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation's priorities that should be revisited," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said in a statement accompanying the report.

This trend was national, and Georgia fell in the middle of the pack, with the gulf in the growth in spending on corrections versus education the biggest in Texas and the smallest in Massachusetts.

Over those three decades, the number incarcerated in Georgia more than quadrupled while the overall population doubled.

The report notes the policy ramifications: Researchers have connected poor educations with incarceration, with two thirds of inmates lacking a diploma. The upshot: Spend more on education and the prison budget won’t have to rise so much.

Georgia has recognized the problem, and has embarked on various justice overhauls, including the establishment of charter schools in prisons, starting with one at Arrendale State Prison for women near Gainesville and another at Burruss Correctional Training Center for men in Middle Georgia.