Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Reverse New Deal: Shut Down the Schools and Build More Prisons

(Fort Hill High School in Cumberland, Maryland. This school was built with funds from the Public Works Administration, and the surrounding grounds--including the football stadium--were developed by the Works Progress Administration. Fort Hill High School still operates today, graduating hundreds of students every year. Photo by Brent McKee.)

Across America, thousands of teachers are being laid off and hundreds of schools are being shut down. Rather than a thoughtful and reasonable budget process, this phenomena seems more like a fire sale. For example, in Philadelphia 23 schools are being shut down and thousands of school personnel are being laid-off. This is (we are told) because of the city's $304 million budget deficit. But meanwhile, they're building a shiny new $400 million prison. Indeed, the trend across the country has been to increase prison budgets while decreasing education budgets. And big business is now fully in-the-game, running private prisons for profit, which has surely facilitated longer prison sentences, wrongful convictions, and public corruption (see, e.g., "Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced to 28 Years In Massive Juvenile Justice Bribery Scandal"). 

During the New Deal, there was some prison-building. But that category of projects was tiny compared to the various projects designed to better our country. For example, for every new prison or jail built by the WPA, they built 32 new schools (181 vs. 5,908). 

Today, the emphasis has shifted towards incarceration. 

Welcome to the Reverse New Deal, where America is continuing to grow its prison-industrial complex (already the world's largest)....even if that means we have to dismantle our education system.

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