The cost of getting the system wrong is everywhere: jail, entitlements, courts. You could almost make an argument that our system is funded (or set up) on people failing. It employs cops, military, social workers, lawyers, judges, and on and on. We're at a point, really, that if we didn't have people f%*#ing up, a lot of us would be unemployed.
That's a bad system. Our society has a lot of systems in place to deal with bad and problematic behaviors, but we have few things in place to stop them before they become problematic.
If we fix this, we could then focus on what to do with luxury problems. What do you do when all of your citizens are fed and comfortable? What's next?
This great problem is one that we should have. But we don't. I'm already digressing.
The cost of housing an inmate is around $30,000 p/year. (This amount is conservative, and also, sort of, irrelevant; also, figuring someone pays nearly $10,000 in taxes on a $50,000 income, this means it takes three working citizens to pay for one person to live in jail.) The average cost of educating a student is about $10,000 p/year.
Potential Scenario: Bill* goes to school in kindergarten. He causes trouble and doesn't really like it, but does the bare minimum to pass. Each year, his teacher says, "I'm glad that kid ins not in my class." Bill enters high school, gets D-'s in every class, and gets to the final quarter of his senior year. He turns 18 March 31st. On his birthday, he goes out and buys a gun. He uses this gun and kills three people he doesn't like. He breaks into their houses, and shoots them. In court, Bill pleads Guilty to three counts of murder. He receives a life sentence for each one with no chance of parole. In prison, Bill takes a vow of silence and doesn't say a word for the next sixty years. He eats three meals a day, causes no problems. He dies in prison at the age of 78.
In this scenario, using the minimums, Bill never works a day in his life. He costs tax payers $120,000 for his K-12 education, doesn't earn a degree, and then cost tax payers an additional $1,800,000 before dying. His entire life, he has never done one ounce of good for the general public, but has drained the tax payers of $1,920,000 dollars.
This scenario is not only possible, but it happens.
Or, Susie goes to her local public school. In 8th grade, she gets pregnant. Those around her don't fully judge, but they do throw her a baby shower. She enters high school at 14 with one child. Later that year, she gets pregnant with her second child. Her junior year, she has her third child, and, having to take care of three kids is too much so she drops out. Unemployed and the mother of three, she applies for medicaid, is accepted and she and her children receive aid until the youngest is 18. Because she has the funds, Susie doesn't work. Not touching the public assistance, Susie cost taxpayers $110,000 only to go on to a life that was also funded by the public. Her back pain made her eligible for early social security, which she received until she died at 62. At 23, she became addicted to pain meds, which continued until her death. She also drank a lot and neglected her children. They ate tv dinners and more or less raised themselves.
The not real examples of Bill and Susie are both possible. We have a system that allows this, funds this, and the cost of this system is huge. Schools that complain about lack of funding for basic supplies could have those same supplies paid for from the compounded interest of one Bill or Susie.
So how do these hypothetical situations happen? How do we allow a system that makes it possible to go through your whole life being a bad citizen? It's appalling at best, evil at worst.
If you've read this far, you may think these examples are stupid, which is only partially true. They happen all the time, it's just how they happen that is different. When you go to many rural areas or inner cities, some version of this story happens year after year. You see the parents that raise these children, and you see what neglect does to an education. When you look at our graduation rates, they are terrible. The highest you'll see is 83%, and some are as low as 45%. (The variance in numbers is caused because of how you count graduation rates, which varies in a major way). 50% is fair. This means that of every two students that begin kindergarten, only one of them will finish school; the other, almost always, has some type of Bill or Susie story.
Without a high school education, your chances of successfully impacting American society at large are much smaller than if you do. Rather than a stat, this common sense. I currently teach adult ed, which means that every student I see has a Bill or Susie story. All of them. And though their reasons for not graduating from high school vary, they have similar stories. The content was boring, no one noticed them, they slipped through the cracks. It's amazing how many students are able to slip by.
When kids slip through the cracks, it isn't good for anyone. When these same kids aren't going to school, they get in trouble. This trouble costs us all. It costs us in money, but we are also at a point where this should not happen. We can combat this. We already spend the money after the fact. Why not put those same dollars into prevention?