Education Not Incarceration in Kern County
Kern County spends 100 times more on the incarceration of its citizens than their education. This has to stop now.
Lisa Green, the Kern County District Attorney, has a salary that is more than the entire average budget of many of the library branches in Kern County combined. Now, she’s called for libraries to close in order to fund her entire department and her salary.
The current budget disparities in Kern are devastating for overtaxed citizens who are getting more and more frustrated with diminishing returns on their investment. The budget for the library system is around 7 million dollars, while the budget for the sheriff and D.A. are more than 700 million dollars. That’s over 100 times more tax money for those departments. So its not surprising that some of the 24 branches in Kern County operate at an entire cost of $140,000 while the Salary and Benefits of only District Attorney Lisa Green are more than twice that amount at over $350,000. Of course, it’s not unexpected that she wants to keep this windfall for herself at the expense of the education of the community she “serves.”
What many people don’t realize is that libraries return over $5 for every dollar spent on them. These returns are often in the form of services provided to the business community to help them increase revenues, resources for budding entrepreneurs, programs for new and young families and students, increased property values, support of returning veterans, and skill building for those seeking better employment. Its also important to understand that communities that have access to better funded libraries have lower incarceration rates and lower crime rates. That’s because citizens who use the library have access to the tools they need to be able to improve their lives without having to turn to crime to make ends meet.
These kinds of disparities in the recent budgets should only make it clearer that Kern County Government officials support the incarceration of their population over the education of their citizens. Kern only spends 8 million dollars to educate it citizens while it spends almost 100 times that amount to police them in order to incarcerate them. This is especially devastating considering the low literacy rates, low test scores, and high drop-out rates across the county that are contributing to the high crime rates. All of these are issues that could be solved with a library system that was a higher priority and better funded and therefore reduce crime rates in Kern County. In fact, maybe if Kern prioritized investing in the education of its citizens, they’d have the resources, skills, and knowledge they needed to avoid incarceration?