Fun with Numbers - Prison Funding vs. School Funding in Iowa

Todd Dorman
Published: October 23 2012 | 9:13 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:22 am in
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Radio Iowa picked up on an interesting state audit report detailing how much Iowa spends per-day and per-year on housing  prison inmates. It turns out keeping a person in prison costs, on average, $81.17 per-day.

The audit shows the average annual cost per inmate at the state’s nine prison institutions ranged from $19,901 at the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City to $49,615 at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale.

General Fund expenditures for the nine institutions totaled roughly $261 million. That marked an increase of less than half-a-percent over 2010. The auditor’s office including some recommendation in the report for each of the institution’s to improve their bookkeeping and oversight procedures.

According to the Legislative Services Agency, in Fiscal Year 2012, school aid to Iowa's public K-12 districts added up to $2.2 billion, with $474 million for state universities and $180 million for community colleges. That's a lot of dough, but per-student, it's significantly cheaper than prison.

In Fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, the state spent $4,745 per-pupil in K-12 schools. Add local property taxes to that, and it's $7,773 per student. The state spends $9,957 per state university student and $1,851 for each community college student. Voluntary preschool costs $2,934 per pupil.

If you divide the $7,773 by 180 required days of school, that's $43.18 per-day.

So, please, stay in school, and out of prison. Thank you. Sincerely, the taxpayers of Iowa.

The $81 per-day for prisoners is, however, less than the $132 per-day that state lawmakers get for daily expenses during the legislative session. Lawmakers who live in Polk County where the Statehouse is located get $102.75.

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