The U.S. spends nearly seven times more on public education than it spends on law enforcement, yet some Democratic politicians are calling to "defund the police," or reallocate police funds to schools and other public service sectors they believe could benefit high-crime, low-income communities.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, has proposed reallocating police funds toward schools as a way to "prevent crime."
The country spent more than $739 billion on primary and secondary public education in 2016-2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but the U.S. ranks surprisingly low in a study that measures reading, science and math skills among 15-year-old students.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 2018 PISA Insights & Interpretations report found that the U.S. ranked No. 16 for reading skills, No. 37 for math skills and No. 18 for science skills. China ranked No. 1 for all three categories.
One 2016 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, however, found that more spending on education does have a positive impact on student performance. But increased spending does not "have detectable effects on resource or achievement gaps between high- and low-income (or white and black) students," researchers noted.
Comparatively, the U.S. spent $115 billion on law enforcement in 2017, according to the Urban Institute, with New York spending more than $500 on law enforcement for every resident in the state and Washington, D.C., spending nearly $900 per resident.
The next year, the U.S. saw a nearly 7 percent drop in its murder rate, a 2018 FBI crime report reads.
A 2018 Princeton study found that after the Obama administration's increased spending as part of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grant program from less than $20 million between 2005-2008 to $1 billion in 2009 led to more police department hirings and less overall crime.
A Washington Post analysis examining a correlation between spending on law enforcement and crime, however, presented a different reality and found that more police spending does not lead to a reduction in overall crime.
Some labor leaders have urged reforms to policing, while the police chief in Minneapolis, where George Floyd, a black man, died when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for at least eight minutes while Floyd was in police custody, has ended contract negotiations with the police union. Police unions have come under criticism for defending the bad actions of member cops.