Chapter 12: Traditional and Visible Services: Criminal Justice, Education, Transportation and Emergency Management

12.A – Introduction

      This chapter covers four of the largest and most “visible” — in terms of budget allocations — services that are provided by state and local government: criminal justice, education, transportation, and emergency management.  By “visible” we mean those public services encountered frequently, or services we are likely to be aware of on a continual basis.  The criminal justice system in each state includes state and local police, prosecutors, crime labs, prisons and jails, various corrections programs such as work release and community service, state and local probation and parole officers, and numerous other types of uniformed and plain-clothed personnel. The state, county, and municipal court systems are also a part of the criminal justice system, but given the great importance of the courts, this branch of government is discussed separately in Chapter 8.

      The education system, which is often the largest single expenditure at the state and local level of government, includes K-12 public schools and school districts, Head Start Programs, disability, and special education programs, community colleges, and public universities.  In addition, each state typically has a Department of Education, or similar agency, that administers education policy and monitors implementation for compliance with national and state school standards. Because every state has compulsory education required to a certain level, all citizens have some exposure to the education system, whether it is through public schools or private schools and academies (private schools are regulated by state and local governments).

      Another service that many citizens take largely for granted, but which is an integral part of everyday life for everyone, is the transportation system.  Depending on location, this could include mass transit (e.g., buses, light rail trains, and subways), airports, park-and-ride lots, streets and alleyways, freeways and turnpikes, car and passenger ferries, waterways, port facilities and marinas, streetlights, bike and walking paths, and bridges and overpasses. State and local governments are also involved in the regulation of private transportation services such as bus lines, taxis, rental vehicles, trucking, and the like.  As with public education, state governments typically have departments of transportation established to coordinate and monitor commercial and common transport and travel activities and services.

      Finally, services and programs concerning emergency management and homeland security have become much more visible after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and since the arousal of international health concerns over matters such as mad cow disease and possible avian and swine flu [H1N1] pandemics.  Often acting in cooperation with the federal government, state and local governments have been developing plans, procedures, and programs to ensure public safety and assistance the next time a major disaster takes place.  The state and local Public Health authorities, the state and local fire and Emergency Medical Technicians, and local law enforcement (often the county Sheriff) are all involved in the identification of hazards and vulnerabilities and planning for prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery associated with either man-made or natural disasters requiring emergency services.

      As discussed in Chapter 1, all four of these government services and programs are integral factors in developing and maintaining sustainable and resilient states and communities.  Lack of investment or proper maintenance and management of these services threatens the social and economic basis of communities, as well as threatens the ability to adapt to the various socio-economic changes taking place in postindustrial America.  In addition, unfunded mandates by the federal government, such as the recently enacted stormwater management standards of the Clean Water Act, and such as some components of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act requiring high stakes testing and intensive instruction in math and science literacy (see below), have added weighty responsibilities to state and local governments without adequate resources.1 With the rising costs of delivering these services and the additional burdensome unfunded mandates, state and local officials must now consider new approaches to service delivery and new ways of finding adequate funding.  We will discuss some of these new public policy and public finance approaches in this chapter.

Learning Objectives

More specifically this chapter will:

  • Compare and contrast state criminal justice systems and policies, including a focus on new and innovative approaches to adult and juvenile crime prevention, and discuss criminal justice programs and operations that promote community sustainability rather than expand the reach of the criminal justice.
  • Examine the government’s role (federal, state and local) in K-12 and higher education systems, and how education can serve to promote sustainability.
  • Discuss the importance of state and local governments in the development and management of a variety of transportation systems and infrastructure investments that promote sustainability.
  • Present information on the increasing role of state and local governments in the planning and implementation of emergency management services.

12.B – Criminal Justice

      In the U.S. state and local (county and municipal) governments are the most important actors in the criminal justice policy area.  While federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are frequently headlined in the mass media, it is the case that the vast majority of criminal justice activity takes place at the state and local levels of government.  State and local criminal justice systems consist of agencies and personnel who are responsible for enforcing criminal codes, state statutes, and local ordinances.  These agencies and personnel include commissioned law enforcement officers, criminal and general jurisdiction courts, correctional facilities (e.g., jails and prisons) and community-based corrections programs, prosecutors, crime victim advocates and legal aid (including public defenders). While these many agencies and legal system professional groups can be found in any state, very different perspectives on criminal justice inform criminal justice policy at the state and local levels of governance.  The debate over criminal justice policy is often fueled by a profound disagreement about the causes of crime, and what those causes imply for the appropriate countermeasures to be adopted.  In general, policymakers hold three different views regarding the causes of crime, the origins, and characteristics of offenders, and the purposes of criminal law.  These three views can be labeled the sociogenic, the psychogenic and the biogenic perspectives.

      The sociogenic school of thought focuses on the criminogenic (crime-causing) aspects of the environment and its advocates place primary responsibility for the occurrence of crime on society. Poverty, poor education, high unemployment, unstable homes, the absence of affection, and improper socialization into social norms are cited as common causes of crime.2 The sociogenic approach typically reflects a liberal political ideology.

      The psychogenic school of thought reflects a psychological approach that considers the individual’s propensity and inducement to violate social norms and commit a crime.3 That propensity is determined by the individual’s ability to conceptualize right and wrong, to manage impulses, to take reasonable risks, and to anticipate the future consequences of one’s actions. Inducement refers to situational factors, such as unguarded access and easy opportunity, which can act as incentives to crime.  According to this view, the individual is responsible for his/her behavior because a choiceis made whether or not to commit a crime.  This view generally underlies conservative thought, and it explains why the advocates of this understanding of criminal motivation favor severe penalties (such as capital punishment) thought to deter individuals from making the wrong choices.

      A third approach to crime is the biogenic or “sociobiological” explanation.4 This viewpoint is not highly common among criminologists, but has been popularized by the scholar James Q. Wilson.5 This school of thought relates criminal behavior to such fundamental biological phenomena as brain tumors, endocrine abnormalities, neurological dysfunctions from pre-natal and post-natal experiences, and chromosomal abnormalities.6 Preventive crime policies would entail the development of appropriate screening and other diagnostic tests for persons suspected of such physical or mental disorders.

      Those who subscribe to the sociogenic school of thought are less likely to be supporters of punishment as the sole solution to crime than are those who adhere to either the psychogenic or biogenic schools of thought.  Proponents of sociogenic explanation do not hold the individual as always primarily responsible for his/her criminal behavior and, because of this, do not see punishment as an effective deterrent to most types of criminal behavior.  Instead, they tend to favor a civil libertarian approach, which emphasizes the rights of individuals accused of crimes and advocate treatment and rehabilitation-focused programs for juvenile offenders and most adult offenders alike.

      In contrast, those who view criminal behavior as a matter of individual choice (the psychogenic school) are likely to see swift and certain punishment as an effective deterrent because punishments constitute a tangible consequence as individuals calculate the amount of risk involved in committing a crime in relation to the potential consequence.  Adherents of this perspective will support policies that take a law and order approach, where the emphasis is placed on protecting the public order by close monitoring of conduct and the imposition of stern punishments on those who commit offenses.

      Those who adhere to the biogenic school differ slightly from the psychogenic ideology in that they may or may not view punishment as a deterrent to crime, but they most likely feel that capital punishment is the appropriate punishment for individuals who cannot be cured of their criminal predispositions.  However, the primary emphasis for the advocates of the biogenic perspective would be on preventive policies that identify those persons who are biologically predisposed to commit crimes measurable through reliable diagnostic tests of various kinds.

12.B.I – Crime in America

      The two most comprehensive sources of crime data in the United States are the annual National Crime Survey(NCS) and the F.B.I.’s Uniform Crime Report(UCR).  The NCS conducts very large-scale household surveys each year to determine whether citizens have been the victims of major crimes such as rape, robbery, burglary, larceny or other crimes.  The NCS is a good measure of crime because it collects data on crimes that have occurred that have not been reported to the police.  The UCR, in contrast, is a measure of crimes known to police — i.e., those that are actually reported to the authorities. Typically the NCS reveals far more serious crimes being committed than the UCR registers because many crimes go unreported for a variety of reasons, such as fear of retribution, a belief that the police could do nothing about the crime, or the desire to “drop the charges” on the party responsible for the crime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics is also a great source of crime and law data.  For example, a 2016 report by the Bureau (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016: 1).7

  • “The number of adults supervised by the U.S. correctional system dropped for the ninth consecutive year in 2016. The correctional population includes persons supervised in the community on probation or parole and those incarcerated in prisons or local jails. This report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics is the latest official snapshot of the state of the U.S. correctional population.
  • From 2007 to 2016, the proportion of the adult population under the supervision of U.S. correctional authorities decreased by 18 percent, from 3,210 to 2,640 adults under correctional supervision per 100,000 residents. The number of adults under correctional supervision per 100,000 U.S. adult residents was lower in 2016 (2,640) than at any time since 1993 (2,550). Overall, about 1 in 38 adults were under some form of correctional supervision at year-end 2016.
  • An estimated 6,613,500 persons were under correctional supervision on December 31, 2016, about 62,700 fewer persons than on January 1. The total correctional population declined 0.9 percent during 2016 due to decreases in both the community supervision population (down 1.1 percent) and the incarcerated population (down 0.5 percent).
  • The incarcerated population decreased from 2,172,800 in 2015 to 2,162,400 in 2016. All of the decreases in the incarcerated population was due to a decline in the prison population (down 21,200), while the jail population remained relatively stable. The number of persons held in prison or local jail per 100,000 U.S. adult residents (incarceration rate) has declined since 2009 and is currently at its lowest rate (860 per 100,000 in 2016) since 1996 (830 per 100,000).
  • During 2016, the community supervision population fell from 4,586,900 on January 1 to 4,537,100 at year-end. All of the decrease in the community supervision population in 2016 was due to a decline in the probation population (down 52,500). The parole population increased 0.5 percent in 2016 (up 4,300 persons). More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the correctional population were supervised in the community at year-end 2016, similar to the percentage observed in 2007.”

      Using data from the UCR, the F.B.I. periodically publishes a “crime clock” for serious crimes reported from across the nation.  The data in Table 12.1 for 2015 indicates that every 20.0 seconds there is a burglary, every 5.5 seconds a larceny-theft, every 44.6 seconds a motor vehicle theft, every 33.5 minutes a murder, every 4.2 minutes a rape and a robbery every 1.6 minutes.  While crime rates — both reported to the authorities and crime victimization — can vary from year to year, these are disturbing numbers and are an indication of the enormous challenge and burden facing state and local government criminal justice systems.  Not only are the human costs of these crimes enormous — such as loss of life and long-term debilitating effects — but the monetary costs are great as well, not only for the victims but also for state and local government budgets.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, “local jails” (locally-operated correctional facilities) have the following traits:8

    • One burglary every 20.0 seconds
    • One larceny-theft every 5.5 seconds
    • One motor vehicle theft every 44.6 seconds
    • One murder every 33.5 minutes
    • One rape every 4.2 minutes
    • One robbery every 1.6 minutes
    • One aggravated assault every 41.3 seconds

Table 12.1 FBI Crime Clock, 2015

      The majority of inmates in both our prisons and local jail facilities are Black or Latino, possess few educational or vocational skills for legitimate employment, are more often involved in the chronic use of drugs, are likely to have grown up in poverty, and received relatively little nurturance from parents or extended families.  In fact, in one of the first most comprehensive studies on the “prevalent handicaps” among prison inmates, Albert Roberts identified five characteristics common to most institutional correctional facility inmates:9

1. The first is “character disorder,” which means antisocial behavior due to inappropriate socialization as a child.

2.  “unemployability,” the lack of job-related skills and work motivation.

3. “relationship hang-ups,” lack of constructive interpersonal relationships and support with family and friends.

4. “social stigma,” being labeled a felon or socially undesirability.

5. “immaturity,” inability to take appropriate responsibility for one’s own actions and to make socially acceptable life choices.

These same five characteristics are as relevant today as they were in the early 1970s when Roberts did his pioneering research.

12.B.II – Remedies

      As discussed previously, there are differing theories concerning the causes of crime, and as a consequence, there are different remedies offered by the advocates each theory.  The three main countermeasures to crime advocated are punishment, rehabilitation and treatment; in many instances, a combination of all three approaches is being attempted in state and local settings across the country.  Punishment has been a very popular approach to crime in the U.S., as evidenced by historically popular support for the death penalty; large majorities of citizens support its use in cases of murder and other heinous crimes (see Table 12.2). While only 58 countries in the world used the death penalty in 2016 (including China, Iran, Syria, and the United States), 35 percent of U.S. citizens in 2014 support its use for purposes of revenge,  (“an eye for an eye”) and punishment thought to deter serious crime (see Table 12.3).

2017 OCT 5-11 55% 41% 3%
2016 OCT 5-9 60% 37% 3%
2015 OCT 7-11 61% 37% 2%
2014 OCT 12-15 63% 33% 4%
2013 OCT 3-6 60% 35% 5%
2012 DEC 19-22 63% 32% 6%
2011 OCT 6-9 61% 35% 4%
2010 OCT 7-10 64% 29% 6%
2009 OCT 1-4 65% 31% 5%
2008 OCT 3-5 64% 30% 5%
2007 OCT 4-7 69% 27% 4%
2006 OCT 9-12 67% 28% 5%
2006 MAY 5-7 65% 28% 7%
2005 OCT 13-16 64% 30% 6%
2004 OCT 11-14 64% 31% 5%
2003 OCT 6-8 64% 32% 4%
2003 MAY 19-21 70% 28% 2%
2002 OCT 14-17 70% 25% 5%
2001 OCT 11-14 68% 26% 6%
2001 FEB 19-21 67% 25% 8%
2000 AUG 29-SEP 5 67% 28% 5%
2000 JUN 23-25 66% 26% 8%

Table 12.2 Public Support for the Death Penalty for a Person Convicted of Murder

2014 Oct 12-15 2003 May 19-21 2001 Feb 19-21 1991 Jun 13-16
THEY DESERVE IT 14% 13% 6%
SERVE JUSTICE 4% 4% 1% 3%
OTHER 1% 4% 3% 11%
NO OPINION 4% 2% 1% 2%

Table 12.3 Reasons for Favoring the Death Penalty Among the U.S. Public

      The popularity of punishment among citizens and elected officials has led to the adoption in most states of mandatory sentencing laws, including three-strikes laws. These state statutes are aimed at deterring potential offenders and incapacitating convicted criminals through long-term prison terms.  One of the unfortunate results of mandatory sentencing and the punishment approach, in general, is that many new state and local correctional facilities have had to be constructed to house an increasing number of prisoners where that investment of public funds could be afforded.  Where that investment was not possible, existing correctional facilities have been filled to capacity or overfilled.  In this connection, correctional facilities in 18 states were either filled or over-filled in prisoner capacity in 2014.11

      As costs and the number and nature of participants in the overwhelmingly punishment-based criminal justice systems have dramatically increased, many scholars and practitioners believe the current system is neither economically, nor socially, nor institutionally sustainable.12 Alternatives to punishment and imprisonment include new community-based policing procedures, juvenile aftercare programs, community service and residential centers, fines, restitution, intensive probation, and shock incarceration-boot camps, among others.13 For example, due to prison overcrowding and the high costs of incarceration, many state and local governments have moved to the use of “intermediate sanctions” for nonviolent offenders.  One such intermediate sanction is intensive probation supervision, a conditional release program which features strict curfews, routine and random (unscheduled) drug testing, community service, and restitution to victims. While this is not the approach taken for violent or habitual offenders, it is much less costly and provides an opportunity for rehabilitation for the first-time offender. In this manner of program, offenders are both held accountable for their actions and are given the opportunity to act responsibly in the community to make proper amends.

      Other approaches to building sustainable criminal justice systems include community policing. In general, community policing can involve the following activities: police officers being assigned to specific neighborhoods rather than being on call for responding to 911 calls citywide; the creation and maintenance of neighborhood police stations or “storefronts” in high crime areas; participation in neighborhood meetings and the making of home visits by police officers, etc.  All of these activities are undertaken in an attempt to connect police with citizens in their respective neighborhoods and communities instead of just performing drive-by patrols in their cars. Community policing also emphasizes “problem-solving methodologies” and partnership building policies, where police agencies work closely with community groups and local businesses to identify current and future problems and then work together collaboratively to address those problems.  The federal government’s U.S. Department of Justice established the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in the 1994 Crime Bill to provide federal resources to local communities so that they could train their officers in community policing and implement these programs designed to sustain safe and crime-free communities wherein the police and the citizens they serve are involved in an active partnership to preserve public order and promote public safety.

      Many innovations in dealing with crime as well as new programs reflect the values of sustainability, and some of these successful approaches should be noted.  One example includes: “…designing, implementing, and monitoring sentencing guidelines that balance several goals of crime response; establishing mandatory drug treatment instead of prison for first- and second-time drug possession,” providing in prison “…basic schooling and drug and alcohol treatment to those offenders who can benefit from those services,” to help prisoners “graduate” to freedom at the end of their term.  Prison and jail programs that can provide job training and job placement at the end of prison terms have also been found to reduce recidivism.14 In addition, some programs that target at-risk youth — such as early intervention programs including counseling, organized constructive activities, and out-of-home placement for serious offenses — have been found to be effective as well.15  While there is no one single approach or combination of approaches that will completely eradicate crime, many states and communities have been trying new and different approaches to criminal justice that represent alternatives to incarceration and move toward the goal of sustainability.

12.C – Education

      Provision of public education is typically one of the largest expenditures and entails the most visible service provided by state and local governments.  With over 48 million students, over 93,000 schools, more than 3 million teachers, and nearly 3 million support staff and administrators involved in K-12 education in the United States, public education has an enormous effect on state and local budgets, on local economies, and on the socio-economic fabric of communities.  Add to this set of totals the 1,720 4-year public universities, the 2,516 2-year public colleges, and their respective professors, administrators, and staff, the effects of public education on society are even greater.  The connection of public education to the effective promotion of sustainability is clear and direct as schools, colleges and universities are a key part of the visible services experienced by virtually all citizens. How the education system teaches about and models behavior regarding sustainability is a matter of great importance to contemporary professional educators and education policymakers.

      The history of education policy in the United States reflects the nation’s steady transformation from a rural natural resource-based and agricultural economy in the 1700s and 1800s to the development of postindustrial society in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries (see Table 12.4).  The first public school in the U.S. was established in Boston in 1635 to educate the sons of the city’s wealthy elites.  Elite access to education was primarily the norm until the period of industrialization in the mid-1800s. At this time there was an expansion of educational opportunities — especially in the growing cities — for students of middle and working-class families.  This is the period when mandatory attendance laws began to be enacted by state legislatures in recognition of the fact that an industrial workforce and economy require adequate levels of literacy. In the twentieth century, as the U.S. was developing into a postindustrial economy, many efforts were made by the federal and state governments alike to insure better education opportunities for all races and for disadvantaged students as well.

1635 First Latin Grammar School established in Boston to educate sons of wealthy families for leadership positions.
1635 First “free school” established in Virginia.
1636 Harvard College becomes the first higher education institution.
1647 Massachusetts Law of 1647 decrees that every town with at least 50 families hire a schoolmaster to teach reading and writing.
1821 First public high school opens in Boston.
1827 Massachusetts passes a law requiring public high schools in towns of 500 families or more.
1829 New England Asylum for the Blind is the first school in the U.S. for children with disabilities.
1837 Mount Holyoke becomes the first college for women.
1852 First mandatory attendance law is passed in Massachusetts; all states will have mandatory attendance laws by 1918.
1856 First kindergarten is started in Wisconsin.
1862 Land Grant Act (“First Morrill Act”) donates public lands to states to establish colleges and universities.
1890 Second Morrill Act provides more public land for colleges, including the creation of 16 Black land grant colleges.
1896 Supreme Court rules “separate but equal” schools are constitutional in Plessy versus Ferguson; the decision affirms racially segregated schools.
1916 American Federation of Teachers is founded.
1926 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is developed and used.
1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (“G.I. Bill”) is passed, providing education for returning WWII veterans.
1952 Veteran’s Readjustment Act is passed for Veterans of the Korean War.
1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education overturns 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson, by ruling separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
1957 President Eisenhower sends federal troops to enforce integration in Little Rock, Arkansas public schools.
1958 As a result of the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik, the National Defense Education Act is passed increasing funding for science education.
1964 Civil Rights Act is passed. It prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, color, religion or national origin.
1965 Project Head Start provides preschool education for low-income children.
1966 The Equality of Educational Opportunity Study (the “Coleman Report”) concludes that African American children benefit from attending integrated schools. Study serves as the basis for busing to integrate schools.
1972 Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education.
1975 The Education of All handicapped Children Act is passed requiring free, appropriate public education for all handicapped children.
2002 No Children Left Behind (NCLB) becomes law, holding school accountable for student achievement.
2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces NCLB. States are responsible for holding schools accountable for achievement, but it’s a flexible approach with each state setting its own goals for student achievement.

Table 12.4 Key Dates in U.S. Education Policy History

      State governments are primarily responsible for the provision of educational services in our country, although the federal government has passed many laws concerning access and quality of state school systems (i.e., the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act and its replacement the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act).  Every state has established a department of education of some type and enacted laws regulating curriculum, teacher qualifications, school finance, student attendance, and the like.  The almost 15,000 local school districts operating in the U.S. today oversee the day-to-day administration of schools.  Many school districts are heavily supported by local taxes, a fact which ties schools closely to their communities and can influence the types of programs and curriculum offered as well as affect the quality and quantity of educational infrastructure and school personnel.   However, there are many differences among states in how school funding is provided and who provides it.  For example, there is quite a wide variation in average state and local spending per pupil as well, with New York spending on average $20,156 per students in 2013-14 compared to Utah at $6,546 (see Table 12.5).  This wide variation can also be found in higher education tuition as well, with an average resident public university in Massachusetts at $40,761 per student compared to Idaho at $6,006.16

United States 11,066 16.1 27,951
Alabama 9,036 17.4 15,359
Alaska 18,466 16.9 19,957
Arizona 7,457 23.1 12,667
Arkansas 9,752 13.9 20,936
California 9,671 23.6 29,516
Colorado 9,036 17.3 22,332
Connecticut 18,401 12.9 37,679
Delaware 13,793 13.9 14,200
Florida 8,955 15.3 22,793
Georgia 9,236 15.6 25,754
Hawaii 12,400 15.6 15,561
Idaho 6,577 18.6 6,006
Illinois 13,321 15.5 29,639
Indiana 9,396 18.5 30,533
Iowa 10,647 14.2 25,308
Kansas 10,240 13.2 17,827
Kentucky 9,411 16.6 24,258
Louisiana 10,853 15.5 32,733
Maine 13,267 12.2 34,277
Maryland 14,217 14.8 38,352
Massachusetts 15,886 13.3 40,761
Michigan 10,649 18.1 22,018
Minnesota 11,427 15.4 29,377
Mississippi 8,265 15.2 16,438
Missouri 9,938 13.6 22,416
Montana 10,941 14.1 22,961
Nebraska 11,877 13.6 21,641
Nevada 8,275 21.2 18,827
New Hampshire 14,601 12.5 31,979
New Jersey 18,780 12.2 34,040
New Mexico 9,403 15.2 20,532
New York 20,156 13.5 36,361
North Carolina 8,287 15.6 29,307
North Dakota 12,032 11.8 13,883
Ohio 11,434 16.2 28,953
Oklahoma 7,995 16.4 23,658
Oregon 9,959 21.6 35,034
Pennsylvania 13,824 14.3 37,237
Rhode Island 15,372 15.0 37,406
South Carolina 9,608 15.3 23,167
South Dakota 9,036 13.8 22,164
Tennessee 8,662 15.2 25,053
Texas 8,602 15.3 28,880
Utah 6,546 23.2 7,571
Vermont 18,066 10.6 39,518
Virginia 10,955 14.2 21,016
Washington 10,305 18.0 34,412
West Virginia 11,371 14.0 11,721
Wisconsin 11,345 14.9 29,777
Wyoming 15,903 12.4 18,021

Table 12.5 State Education Statistics—2013-16

12.C.I – Importance of Education

      Education is one of the most important factors underlying the promotion of sustainable communities.  Higher levels of education have been associated with a wide range of individual, social and economic lifelong benefits; similarly, communities and taxpayers derive a multitude of benefits when citizens have access to education.  In fact, most research concerning resilience and sustainable communities identifies education as a pivotal variable for the simultaneous achievement of economic vitality, a civil society, healthy families, low rates of crime and environmentally sensitive practices.  The following facts about education translate into individual and societal benefits:17

  • There is a correlation between levels of education and higher earnings for all racial/ethnic groups, and for both men and women.
  • Higher levels of education correspond to lower levels of unemployment and poverty, so in addition to contributing more to tax revenues than others do, adults with higher levels of education are less likely to depend on social safety-net programs, generating decreased demand on public budgets.
  • Higher levels of education are associated with lower smoking rates, more positive perceptions of personal health, and lower incarceration rates.
  • Higher levels of education are correlated with higher levels of civic participation, including volunteer work, voting, and blood donation.

12.C.II – Politics and Education

      While the benefits of education are recognized among most segments of society, education policy, like criminal justice policy, has historically been a battleground for different value systems and ideologies.  For example, supporters of the religious right and many conservatives have objected to content taught in public schools, from Darwinian evolution theory in biology to the contemporary emphasis on contributions by minority groups to American history and the writing of women in literature. In response, many highly religious conservatives have withdrawn their children from public schools and engage in homeschooling.  In some states, these people use a voucher system to enroll their children in religious schools. Supporters of a voucher system argue that such educational systems provide parents more freedom in deciding what schools their child may attend.  This choice to parents comes in the form of a voucher, which has — depending on the state — a predetermined amount of money to cover student tuition.  However, while many conservatives strongly support such systems, liberal and pro-public education groups, such as the National Education Association (NEA), strongly oppose voucher systems for the following reasons:

Teachers, parents, and the general public have long opposed private school tuition vouchers — especially when funds for vouchers compete with funds for overall improvements in America’s public schools.  The NEA and its affiliates have been leaders in the fight to improve public schools — and oppose alternatives that divert attention, energy, and resources from efforts to reduce class size, enhance teacher quality, and provide every student with books, computers, and safe and orderly schools.18

      The next step for those opposed to public schools, for a variety of reasons, has been the establishment of a large number of charter schools as alternatives to traditional public schools in 46 states (6 states have no charter school legislation).  Charter schools are public schools that can operate with fewer regulations than apply to traditional public schools.  The “charter” that establishes such schools is a contract detailing the desired curriculum, mission, goals, and methods used to assess achievement of educational outcomes and student performance. Each state has different legislation concerning the length of time charters are granted, but most are issued for 3-5 years with the possibility of renewal.  Charter schools are accountable to either a local school district or a state agency.  Charter schools are granted increased autonomy in return for enhanced accountability. The main reasons often given for charter schools are: they can serve a special population, they allow for more innovative teaching methods, and they can specialize in certain areas of academic study.19  Similar to the use of voucher systems, pro-public school organizations and advocates such as the NEA have been opposed to the creation of charter schools for a variety of reasons, including concerns about the quality of instructional facilities, the content of the curriculum and the credentials of teachers.  The NEA proposes the following alternative to the use of charter schools:

NEA believes that what’s really needed to improve student achievement are programs and resources — smaller class sizes, quality pre-K and after-school programs, expanded professional development for educators, safe and modern schools — that will result in great public schools for all children.20

      Another area where there has been much political conflict in public education concerns the issue of busing children to achieve racially and ethnically integrated schools.  The desegregation of public facilities preceded the desegregation of public schools.  In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” public facilities provided for in public policy were consistent with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The Supreme Court’s ruling meant that racial segregation was acceptable so long as the services provided by government for different races were basically comparable. In this case, Homer Plessy, who was 7/8 white and 1/8 African American, lost his lawsuit to be treated equally based on his attempt to sit in a “whites-only” railroad passenger car instead of a racially segregated car provided for blacks.  This decision wasn’t overturned until nearly 60 years later in 1954 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in the landmark case Brown v Board of Education, ruled that separate schools for blacks and whites were unconstitutional. In upholding the decision in 1955 in Brown v Board of Education II, the Court held that:

…the problems identified in Brown required varied local solutions. Chief Justice Warren conferred much responsibility on local school authorities and the courts, which originally heard school segregation cases.  They were to implement the principles which the Supreme Court embraced in its first Brown decision.  Warren urged localities to act on the new principles promptly and to move toward full compliance with them “with all deliberate speed.”21

      Since this time, many school districts and subsequent state and local government court decisions supported the busing of racial and ethnic minorities to schools that were predominantly white.  In 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education that local education districts across the nation use mandatory busing as a policy to achieve racial integration in their schools. This decision led to the development of court-supervised desegregation busing plans in cities during the 1970s and 1980s. Much turmoil and conflict occurred among contending groups in many U.S. communities.  Conflict was intense in many locations in the South and North alike, including Boston, Massachusetts, where police had to escort African American schoolchildren bused into white neighborhoods in 1974.  There are still those who ardently support or strongly oppose busing for racial integration in many communities today, and some observers continue to note the extreme inequality that continues among school districts. For example, Jonathan Kozol, author of many books detailing inequality in America’s schools (including Savage Inequalities), has argued:

Many Americans who live far from our major cities and who have no firsthand knowledge of the realities to be found in urban public schools seem to have the rather vague and general impression that the great extremes of racial isolation that were matters of grave national significance some thirty-five or forty years ago have gradually but steadily diminished in more recent years.  The truth, unhappily, is that the trend, for well over a decade now, has been precisely the reverse.  Schools that were already deeply segregated twenty-five or thirty years ago are no less segregated now, while thousands of other schools around the country that had been integrated either voluntarily or by the force of law have since been rapidly re-segregating.22

      President Johnson’s 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) represents the first major effort made by the federal government to provide aid to low income and disadvantaged children through the distribution of federal funds to state and local educational systems.  The assumption underlying ESEA was that children from low-income homes required more educational resources and services than children from higher-income households. As part of the ESEA, Title I allocated billions of federal dollars every year to schools with high concentrations of low-income children.  Several programs emerged from ESEA over time, including the Head Start program.  This is a pre-school program for young disadvantaged children with the stated purpose of getting these children ready for the rigors of the first grade.  However, as Hess notes: “Over time, critics of both the left and right expressed concerns about the failure of Title I to improve achievement visibly among low-income students.”23  The slowly emerging consensus among liberals, conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans alike was that ESEA, as well as state and local education efforts of similar design and purpose, were not working for all children.  This consensus led in time to the passage of the No Child Left Behind(NCLB) act in 2002.

      The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaced NCLB in 2018. President Obama signed the bipartisan ESSA into law on December 10, 2015. Below are a few of the key provisions of the law according to the Department of Education:24

  • Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.
  • Requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
  • Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.
  • Helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators.
  • Sustains and expands this administration’s historic investments in increasing access to high-quality preschool.
  • Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.

12.C.III – Higher Education

      So far we have discussed the role of the states and their local governments in the K-12 education arena.  States are also heavily involved in providing higher education opportunities to their citizens — such as community colleges, trade schools, four-year colleges, and research universities — as well.  There are 4,236 higher education institutions in the United States, with 1,720 public 4-year schools, 1,086 2- year public schools, 1,896 private 4-year schools, and 620 private 2-year schools.25 Many states have coordinating boards that set out a broad policy for public universities. For example, the State of Washington has the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board, a state agency governed by a 10-member citizen board.  The charge of the board is to represent the “broad public interest” in higher education and to review and approve all degree programs at the state’s public four-year universities and colleges. Also common in many states, Washington also has a Board for Community and Technical Colleges that plays a similar role with respect to the state’s 2-year community and technical colleges. Some states also have a chief executive officer for the entire state public university system who serves as the leader of the higher education board.

      In most states, there have been three major issues facing public higher education in recent years: access, affordability, and accountability.  As Heller has argued, “With more than 80 percent of all undergraduates in the United States attending public colleges and universities, very few discussions on higher education take place without one or more of these issues being central to the debate.”26 As Chapter 10 on state and local budgeting describes, state budgets have been severely strained by the increasing costs of providing services while revenue sources have not kept up with the pace of inflation and growing demand.  Often public higher education budgets suffer the adverse consequences of constrained revenues as other essential services, such as K-12 education, criminal justice, and health care, are given higher priority.

12.C.IV – Higher Education Access

      As discussed previously, education is one of the most important factors for the creation of sustainable communities.  However, there are grave concerns in most states concerning who has access to public higher education.  The more highly educated are less likely to be in poverty, make higher incomes, are more likely to participate in their communities, are more likely to vote in elections, are likely to have higher levels of policy-relevant and civic knowledge, are less likely to be in poverty or unemployed, and have higher levels of life satisfaction (see Tables 12.6 and 12.7).27  As a report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association concludes:

No state can prosper with a poorly educated workforce, nor can it continue to prosper if its workforce fails to learn continuously. Most of the workers of the next two decades are already over twenty-five years old.  These simple truths require states to assess the knowledge and skills of their adult population and to develop and implement policies that enable current workers, as well as the next generation, to compete more effectively in the global economy.28

Less than high school graduate 6.5% $520
High school graduate or equivalent 4.6% $712
Some college 4.0% $774
Associates degree 3.4% $836
Bachelors degree 2.5% $1,173
Master’s degree 2.2% $1,401
Professional degree 1.5% $1,836
Doctoral degree 1.5% $1,743

Table 12.6 Educational Attainment Related to Unemployment Rates and Income, 2017

Less than high school graduate 29%
High school, no college 14%
Some college, no degree 10%
Bachelors degree or higher 5%

Table 12.7 Educational Attainment and Poverty Rates, 2014. (TOTAL: 12%)

      A comprehensive study conducted by the College Board concerning access to and participation in higher education found the following:29

  • Among students with the top 10% SAT scores, virtually all in the top half of the household income level enroll in some form of higher education, yet only 80 percent of those in the lowest fifth of household income continue to pursue higher education.
  • Participation rates in higher education vary by race and ethnicity, with whites and Asians more likely than African Americans and Hispanics to enroll in higher education institutions.
  • After high school graduation, students of parents who attended college are significantly more likely to attend college when compared to those with similar incomes whose parents do not have a college education.

      One approach that many states have pursued to increase diversity and enhance the number of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities in public higher education has been through the use of affirmative action — specifically with respect to admission policies.  The idea of affirmative action was first promoted by President Kennedy in 1961 as a policy for redressing historical discrimination in both education and employment. Affirmative action policies have typically required active measures to ensure that African Americans, Hispanics and other racial and ethnic minorities receive the same educational opportunities as whites for admissions, scholarships and financial aid.  While affirmative action was originally justified as a temporary remedy until equal opportunities for minorities and non-minorities could be secured, it has been a highly controversial policy from the outset and continues to be controversial, leading to ongoing complaints of “reverse discrimination” among some disadvantaged whites and conservatives in general.

      In 1978, Allan Bakke, a white male, had been rejected two years in a row by the University of California-Davis medical school.  The medical school in both years had admitted less qualified minority applicants through its affirmative action program (16 out of 100 places were reserved for minority applicants). Bakke sued the medical school on the grounds of reverse discrimination (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke). The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that inflexible quota systems in affirmative action were not permissible under the equal protection clause of the 14thAmendment of the constitution; however, in the same decision the Court also upheld the legality of affirmative action in general so long as the remedies applied were carefully tailored to the situation at hand, contributed to the quality of education for all students, and were temporary in nature. Eventually, a citizen’s initiative—Proposition 209—passed in 1996, banned all forms of affirmative action in California.

      Another important case following the Bakke decision was that of Grutter v. Bollinger heard in 2003.  In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action policy, deciding as it did in the Bakke case that race can be one of several factors considered when making admission decisions because it furthers “…the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.”  However, the Court also ruled that the university’s undergraduate admission program, which used a formula that awarded extra points to minority students, was not constitutional and ordered the original trial court to work on an appropriate modification to pass muster on equal treatment.  As a consequence of this decision, state public colleges and universities that wish to enhance diversity can consider race and ethnicity in their admissions, but they cannot use strict formulas or quotas to make such decisions on who is admitted to study.

12.C.V – Higher Education Affordability

      Closely rated to the access to higher education issue is the question of affordability.  Higher levels of tuition obviously restrict access for lower-income students. The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s biennial study entitled The National Report Card on Higher Education(2008) documents the increasing problem of higher education affordability for students and parents wishing to attend public colleges and universities.30 The report gave 43 states an “F” for affordability, which is an increase in the number of failing states from the previous report issued 2 years prior.  Most other states received “Ds,” except for California and Utah, which both received “C” grades.  According to Patrick Callan, a contributor to the report:

College affordability continues to decline in the United States. Of all the performance categories in the Measuring Up report cards, the state results for affordability are the most dismal. Since our previous edition of Measuring Up, the number of states receiving “F” grades increased from 36 to 43.  Even after all financial aid is taken into account, students and their families must devote an increasing share of their income and borrow more to pay for a year of college education at almost all public and private two- and four-year campuses.  Only the wealthiest of American families are exempted from declining college affordability.31

      The study also reports that since the 1980s, the annual rate of increase “…in the price of college has far outstripped price increases in other sectors of the economy, even health care.  Over these years, median family income increased by 127%; college tuition and fees by 375%.”32  While higher education costs have also increased, the data displayed in Table 12.5 indicate some of the disparity between the states in terms of per state support for public higher education and average resident public university tuition.  While there are several factors involved in state support of higher education, such as regional and state differences in the cost of doing business (e.g., Alaska and Hawaii) as well as the health and size of the state budget, there are still enormous differences between the states in this area.

      Besides having states increase higher education budgets to keep tuition costs down and therefore provide more student access, several reforms have been suggested to enhance the capacity of higher education. These reforms include, but are not limited to:

1. improving the quality of K-12 education, thereby eliminating the need for remedial courses (e.g., writing, foreign language) offered at the university for unprepared students.

2. allowing high school students to take more advanced placement (AP) courses to earn college credit.

3. encouraging more collaboration between community colleges and universities so that the transition from 2-year to 4-year institutions is more efficient.

4. encouraging more students to attend lower-cost community colleges, thereby creating greater efficiencies in the state higher education systems.

5. and improving retention and graduation rates at universities to ensure greater efficiency and student success.

12.C.VI – Higher Education Accountability

      In the last decade, there has been a call for increased accountability in higher education by policymakers, business leaders, college administrators, and some voices among the public at large.  There is a sense that higher education in the United States has lost its competitive edge internationally, and the higher education community needs to assess what is working well and what things don’t deserve to be continued.  For example, the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) established the National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education, which issued a report arguing the following:

The United States system of higher education led the world in the 20th century by creating wide access to opportunity and a network of exceptional colleges and universities.  But these achievements are no longer good enough.  The status quo in higher education is unacceptable because: 1) a high school diploma is no longer adequate for work in a competitive economy, supporting a family, or meeting the full responsibilities of citizenship; 2) other countries are beginning to attain and surpass our educational achievements;and 3) the fastest growing segments of our population – minorities and low-income students – have been the least successful in our educational system.  We must improve performance.33

      Following the momentum of accountability measures and policies in K-12 and state higher education systems, institutions are adopting accountability standards that set minimum learning outcomes for students and require the use of an appropriate assessment process for measuring those outcomes.  It is common now for universities and colleges to have specified learning outcomes for the institution at large, for individual colleges within the institution, for individual departments within the colleges, and for specific courses.  While most states are just beginning to adopt such accountability programs, some states such as Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin system already have well-established accountability reporting procedures in place.34

      The National Governors Association (NGA) has also weighed in on enhanced accountability systems for higher education. The NGA has taken the position that effective accountability systems should include 5 goals that are very closely attuned to increasing affordability:35

1. increasing the number of high school graduates who go on to college.

2. reducing the number of high school students needing remedial courses in college.

3. increasing retention and 5-year graduation rates.

4. increasing the number of community college transfers to 4-year schools.

5. and increasing the amount of resources spent on instruction as opposed to other uses (such as administration, research, and faculty salaries).

Given the importance of higher education to state economic and social development in a postindustrial, knowledge-based society, it is likely that the issue of higher education accountability will remain an important issue for U.S. state governments for years to come.

12.C.VII – Higher Education, Technology and Sustainability

      Advances in technology over the last decade and a half have created new ways of educating that have potentially enormous benefits for higher education’s role in the states and their respective communities. Virtual education, distance education, and asynchronous learning offer new forms of course and program delivery, which may well enhance the sustainability of higher education systems (e.g., Oregon State University’s Ecampus programs). As Heller has argued, “The impact of Technology cannot be overstated.  It is becoming ubiquitous in all aspects of university life: teaching, learning, research, administration, service.”36 He further identifies various potential benefits of enhanced use of information and communication technology, including: (1) the ability to overcome geographic boundaries and offer courses and programs to place-bound students, such as someone living in an isolated rural community; (2) the opportunity for students to overcome “temporal boundaries,” allowing them to take classes when the time is convenient for them, such as after work in the evening; (3) depending on the college or university, distance education courses that can reduce the cost of delivering education (e.g., not needing a physical classroom space reduces infrastructure and energy costs, and the use of computer simulations can reduce the cost of using expensive experiments); (4) a reduction of library costs by the use of electronic versions of materials; (5) and more effective, interesting, stimulating and visually appealing materials, exercises, and simulations that are available through technology.

12.D – Transportation

      One very visible service that some citizens take for granted — until a disaster strikes such as the 2007 catastrophic I-35 bridge collapse in Minnesota — is the transportation system, which involves a complicated and extensive system of public and private roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, railroads, subways, light-rail, ferries, airports, bicycle and pedestrian lanes, waterways, and ports. The transportation system is used by millions of individuals, by thousands of businesses and by hundreds of government agencies every day and affects the delivery of numerous services such as health care, education, business transactions, jobs, housing, etc.  All levels of government — including the federal, state, county, municipal, and even special districts — are involved in the building and maintenance of the transportation infrastructure.  For roads and streets alone, Table 12.7 details who manages the nearly 4 million miles in the U.S.  It should be noted, however, that the transportation system is not the same in each state.37   For example, in many states in the East such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont county governments are not involved in road building and maintenance, which are the prerogative of state and municipal governments.  In stark contrast, in other regions of the country such as the West and Midwest and South, county governments are likely to build and maintain more roads than state governments.

Under state control 652,522 120,033
Under country control 1,623,786 156,598
Municipal, town, township control 580,825 647,448
Other jurisdictions (e.g. parks, toll roads, etc.) 55,792 13,331
Under federal control 120,208 3,560
Total miles 3,033,133 940,970

Table 12.8 Total Road and Street Mileage in the United States

      All 50 states have either a department of transportation, roads or highways that is responsible for designing, planning, and operating the streets, highways, transit systems, ports, airports, and railroads under state control to provide for the safe movement of people, goods and services. These state-level departments also work with and oversee local county government road departments as well, often sharing financial and regulatory responsibilities with local government. In comparison to the U.S. federal government, state and local governments play the largest role in terms of financing and managing the nation’s transportation systems.  Of the approximately $416 billion public funds spent on transportation in 2014 at all levels of government, federal funds represented $100 billion with $300 billion coming from state and local governments. This is about 2.4 percent of gross domestic product.38

      Most federal transportation aid to states is financed through collections made on the federal gasoline tax, which currently is 18.4 cents per gallon.  Highway trust fund

      However, the U.S. Department of Transportation has documented a steady decline in the fund in 2017 and 2018.39 As a result, states will likely be responsible for an ever-increasing share of transportation funding in future years.  As the federal government does, the U.S. states also levy gas taxes to fund their transportation services.  State gas taxes are levied in various ways, including a flat rate per gallon, a tax similar to a sales tax in that it applies to the cost of the gasoline sold, and in some states, local governments are allowed to levy gasoline taxes in addition to state taxes (e.g., Florida).  As federal grant funding for the transportation system declines, states will face many challenges to find additional revenues.

      The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has argued that additional funding by the federal government and private sector is necessary to maintain current economic growth:

America has always been a nation on the move. But an aging and crumbling transportation system is not only slowing Americans down, it’s reducing productivity, undermining our ability to move products across the country and around the world, and increasing congestion and air pollution.  Our transportation system is a tremendous national asset we’ve built up over generations. It has fueled economic growth, enhanced our competitiveness, and created a lot of good jobs. If well-maintained, it can continue to deliver outstanding benefits to all Americans.40

      This situation also has led the National Governors Association to state the following:

The present transportation finance structure does not appear sustainable.  Although the public was willing to be taxed to build the national transportation system over the last 50 years, there seems to be less support for the more diffuse benefits of system reconstruction, maintenance, operation, and integration — the financing needs of the future.  State and regional proposals to increase gas, sales, and property or other taxes to fund transportation needs may draw less public support as well.41

      Although increased state and local financing of the transportation system will be needed in the future, there will be competition for resources from such services as education, criminal justice, health care, and a host of other services provided by state and local governments.  This situation has led some groups, such as the National Governors Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Government Accountability Office to advocate some new approaches, including the use of toll roads and bridges, road-pricing strategies such as paying a premium to drive in less congested lanes or locations, the increased use of debt financing, and new strategies to reduce the growth of travel demand or even increased use of mass transit systems, especially in metropolitan areas. These last two strategies — reducing travel demand and mass transit — have been advocated by organizations and policy-makers interested in smart growth and sustainable transportation systems.

12.D.I – Sustainable Transportation Systems

      The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently convened a group of transportation experts to provide policy guidance on how to build a more sustainable transportation system.42 Their report concluded that the present system of transportation finance would be adequate to maintain present conditions and to fund some growth over the next 15 years, but that traffic congestion levels could not be reduced with the current transportation finance system. In addition, the report raised other concerns about the current transportation system that is heavily reliant on the use of cars and trucks, including environmental degradation (loss of habitat and wetlands, water and air pollution, energy use, etc.), social equity (transportation access, especially for the growing retiree population), and quality of life issues such as sense of community and the development of cohesive, inclusive, diverse and resilient local communities.

      The GAO study, as well as the National Governors Association, recommended a host of funding mechanisms and a rethinking of how taxes are collected for the support of transportation services.43 For example, one problem with the current system “that taxing fuel consumption, rather than street and highway use, disconnects the price travelers pay for using the transportation system from the actual cost of providing the capacity they use…As a result, efficient use of the system is not rewarded, and inefficient use is not penalized, precipitating a variety of adverse productivity, environmental, and community impacts.”44  It follows that a tax on-road use rather than a tax on fuel consumption would constitute a more equitable system that properly rewards conservation and preservation of the environment.

      Other sustainability-oriented reforms could include congestion pricing, a practice used in cities abroad which tries to influence driver behavior by charging drivers higher fees to use public roads during peak congestion hours.  An example of this approach can be found in London where drivers of private vehicles must pay 5 pounds (about $10 dollars) to drive in London’s central city between 7:00 a.m. and 6.30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.  This sanction has been successful in discouraging private car traffic and congestion in the inner city by taxing drivers.  The GAO and NGA also suggest the increased use of tolls to finance road and bridge maintenance and improvements as well as other types of user fees.  They also call for more public-private partnerships in transportation to reduce costs and leverage resources.45

      Many advocates of sustainable transportation system suggest a comprehensive paradigm shift in how local communities think about transportation.  For example, these advocates suggest that walking and the use of bicycles — where feasible — will greatly reduce costs, pollution and congestion while promoting public health and wellness among citizens.  It follows that planning for bike lanes and paths is important, along with the development of urban “hubs” that have commercial space for jobs and stores and restaurants located nearby to high-density residential areas to encourage walking and biking.  One community that has encouraged this approach to urban planning would be Davis, California where residents voted to eliminate school bus transportation to encourage children to walk or bike to school.  The community explicitly included bike and walking plans into the development of new neighborhoods.  Davis is relatively small in terms of population at approximately 64,000 people. Portland, Oregon serves as an example of a larger city of over half a million people committed to providing for pedestrians and bikers.  Portland has a bicycle network that connects most parts of the city. Additionally, 60 percent of Portland’s downtown police officers ride bikes as their principal means of transportation.

      Other modes of urban transportation considered sustainable in terms of less pollution, less congestion and perhaps more feasibility for those people with longer commutes are light rail and/or metro elevated rail and subway systems.  The Metrorail and Metrobus transit services in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in the San Francisco-Oakland metropolitan area, the New York Subway system, and Chicago’s Metra Railroad and integrated bus system all provide relatively cheap, rapid and reliable service for millions of citizens every day.  In addition, some cities — most notably Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah and Seattle, Washington — have been building light-rail systems similar to what an American tourist might find in many European cities.  Metropolitan Area Express (i.e., “MAX”) is integrated with “Trimet” public bus services that provide mass transit to most of the three-country Portland metropolitan area. While there are some opponents of adopting such systems due to initial construction and operating costs, as well as by the urban neighborhoods that might be affected or displaced due to the location of lines, light rail and other urban rail systems do offer a sustainable alternative to congestion and the automobile-based urban society.

12.E – Emergency Management

      Emergency management is the process of how governments prepare to protect citizens from perceived threats, and how they seek to prevent, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters.  These threats to public health and safety can include natural disasters, terrorist actions, political crises, and public health emergencies. Preparedness planning focuses on events beyond a minimum calculated probability that could have potentially catastrophic results for a community.46 Government preparedness efforts embody collective security ideals achieved by unifying local governments and relevant state and federal agencies to thoughtfully prepare for potential emergencies.

      Because different emergencies require different responses, decisions must be made about which particular risks to prioritize. State and local agencies often prepare for the catastrophes which are most feared rather than those that are more probable.47 Often the potential depth of a catastrophe guides collective pre-emptive actions, regardless of how remote the likelihood of occurrence. Government emergency planners from federal, state and local governments work to determine which potential disasters could be lessened by the institutional response, and they make subjective consensus judgments based on a combination of experience, specialized training, and political agenda-setting influences.  Emergency management is a way of anticipating surprises, coordinating plans for collective action, educating the public on steps they can take to promote preparedness and resilience while calming public fears.

      Planning for emergency management collectivizes individual risk instead of securing the population at large.48 Emergency management can be examined by the protection of individuals and groups, as well as by the preservation of critical infrastructures.  Government institutions help vulnerable communities during a crisis because of a collective dependence on infrastructure, such as health care, communication, and transportation systems.  In large part, emergency management is the process of formalizing an institutional response to a wide array of crises.

12.E.I – Emergency Management Strategies

      Emergency management prepares communities to maintain order during a catastrophe, regardless of how likely that crisis is to happen.  Emergency preparedness differs from risk avoidance because it is a strategy of how to respond after a major event rather than how to avoid contingent harm.49  External, largely unpredicted danger is then the basic premise of emergency management.50  Because major emergencies affecting large numbers of people can range widely from political to environmental events, diverse strategies are required to deal with potential crises.  Establishing an emergency plan serves to coordinate response efforts and assists with procuring relief resources from outside the area immediately affected by the disaster.

      Emergency management systems are carried out by local, state and federal level government agencies.  Professional emergency responders include over 30,000 local fire departments and 18,000 local police departments that act in conjunction with 30,000 local government agencies and 3,031 county governments. To help coordinate the efforts of all of these actors, the U.S. employs two major institutional response strategies: the National Response Plan (NPR) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  These federally-instigated management systems rely heavily on state and local response during an emergency.51  These complex inter-governmental relationships are established and maintained to collect, evaluate, and disseminate emergency management information and coordinate relief efforts in the case of mobilization during a disaster.

      Emergency simulation training is used extensively in all levels of government to expose institutional vulnerabilities and strengthen response capabilities.  By engaging in a staged crisis, first responder and emergency management administrative personnel learn to execute efficient decision-making strategies and prioritize multiple sub-crises.  Government agencies simulate different scenarios periodically to improve their communication, increase their speed of response, and enhance their ability to limit the scope of various threats.

      Immediately after an emergency management event has occurred, government agencies utilize community networks to foster efficient response efforts.  Strategies to maximize social capital (mutual sentiments of concern and capacity for effective collection action) within communities and fortify regional networks of information sharing and trust do indeed increase the sense of collective efficacy among community residents.52 In order to reinforce social capital, technology is needed to connect professional emergency responders to civilians. Strategies to unite these often-disparate groups include the Internet and mobile communication devices such as cell phones and PDA’s.  Reverse 911 texts and calls from emergency managers to residents help disseminate critical information needed by citizens in order to be helpful in disaster recovery.  Cellular telephone and other portable wireless devices need to be integrated in order to serve as an uninterrupted channel of high level of communication during a crisis. Access, affordability, and training for various web-based interfaces are key elements of effective utilization of response technology. Improved networks of communication allow civilians to help each other and aid in more effective emergency response.53

      Utilizing technological innovations and community response networks also connect government efforts with many non-governmental, community-based organizations.  Key emergency management volunteer organizations include the American Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.  These organizations serve a critical role in disseminating services and resources to citizens in times of dire need, simply because public trust can be higher with non-governmental organizations than with governmental agencies in some circumstances. The perceived objectivity and noble motivations of these groups allow them to gain greater penetration within some local social networks.

12.E.II – Political Crisis Preparedness

      An important facet of emergency management is civil defense, which is relying on military mobilization (National Guard) to maintain political peace and public order and to protect human life.54  To prepare for wide-scale attacks involving either conventional weapons or nuclear or biological weapons, state and local governments depend on the ability of government acting collectively to deploy appropriate military forces immediately. Civil defense aims to protect the population against war and terrorism, and minimize the devastating impacts of either form of man-made disaster.

      As a result of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the power centers of U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to bolster the nation’s domestic security efforts. DHS utilized an ‘all-hazards’ approach to enhance emergency management capabilities across the country. Preparedness in this context is the “measurable relation of capabilities to vulnerabilities, given a selected range of threats.”55   DHS examines the relative likelihood for a crisis, as compared to other government efforts, which are guided by the greatest fear and not the greatest probability. Agencies such as DHS have changed the expectations of Americans regarding government response to a political crisis. By centralizing emergency management planning efforts, first-responder agencies and major political leaders can strengthen their efforts at cooperation and collaboration.

12.E.III – Natural Disaster Preparedness

      Natural disasters are unplanned geographical and environmental events affecting human populations; natural disasters include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and wildfires, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves (tsunami) and droughts.  Natural disasters are managed both through preventative measures and pre-planned recovery efforts.  The effect of floods can be mitigated through levees, fires may be prevented through forest management, and earthquake damage can be reduced by building codes.  However, not all emergencies can be prevented or fully anticipated as to scope and scale of damage and harm to humans, and as a result, proper reactive actions need to be planned in anticipation of a possible engagement in the case of a disaster.

      At the growing interface between human populations and vulnerable landscapes is the greater probability that extreme natural events will affect life and property.  For example, as the U.S. population grows and moves outside of its urban boundaries, more people are living within floodplains, in the midst of dense forests, and out in high desert areas prone to seasonal fires.  As communities expand into these potentially more volatile areas, extreme natural events will create a greater impact.

      Preparation for natural disasters in many ways mimics strategies of civil defense. While both efforts rely on the anticipatory mobilization in the event of a possible catastrophe, the governing structures for the two types of emergency management situations have differed traditionally. Civil defense relies on a hierarchical command structure, but natural disaster management utilizes a decentralized system within many levels of the government.56 The creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979 was a result of combining these previously disparate management strategies.  FEMA consolidated “federal emergency management and civil defense functions under the rubric of ‘all-hazards planning.”57 Combining federal strategies and local efforts to manage natural disasters led to new collaborations and funding opportunities for emergency management personnel at all levels of government.  Despite the efforts of FEMA officials, tensions exist between civil defense and natural disaster planning largely because of the disparity in the required scale of government response.

12.E.IV – Health Emergency Preparedness

      Public health preparedness is a wide-ranging process intended to mitigate the effects of bioterrorism, infectious disease outbreaks, and attacks upon citizens.  Public health crises may also entail shortages in food, water, medicine, and medical staff.  Health preparedness involves many federal, state and local agencies dedicated to protecting human health in both normal times and times of crisis.

Alabama Dept. of Emergency Management Homeland Security Dept.
Alaska Adjutant General/Military Affairs Adjutant General/Military Affairs
Arizona Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Arkansas Dept. of Emergency Management Emergency Management
California Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Colorado Dept. of Local Affairs Public Safety
Connecticut Emergency Management/Homeland Security Emergency Management/Homeland Security
Delaware Dept. of Safety & Homeland Security Dept. of Safety & Homeland Security
Florida Dept. of Community Affairs Law Enforcement Dept. Comm.
Georgia Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Hawaii Dept. of Defense Department of Defense
Idaho Adjutant General/Military Affairs Adjutant General/Military Affairs
Illinois Governor’s Office Emergency Management
Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security Homeland Security Dept.
Iowa Dept. of Public Defense Dept. of Public Defense
Kansas Adjutant General/Military Dept. Emergency Management
Kentucky Adjutant General/Military Dept. Governor’s Office
Louisiana Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Maine Adjutant General/Military Dept. Adjutant General/Military Dept.
Maryland Adjutant General/Military Dept. Governor’s Office
Massachusetts Public Safety Public Safety
Michigan State Police Emergency Management
Minnesota Public Safety Public Safety
Mississippi Governor’s Office Public Safety
Missouri Adjutant General/Military Dept. Public Safety
Montana Adjutant General/Military Dept. Emergency Management
Nebraska Adjutant General/Military Dept. Emergency Management
Nevada Public Safety Public Safety
New Hampshire Public Safety Public Safety
New Jersey State Police Attorney General
New Mexico Public Safety Governor’s Office
New York Public Safety Governor’s Office
North Carolina Public Safety Emergency Management
North Dakota Adjutant General/Military Dept. Adjutant General/Military Dept.
Ohio Public Safety Public Safety
Oklahoma Governor’s Office Public Safety
Oregon Governor’s Office Homeland Security Dept.
Pennsylvania Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Rhode Island Adjutant General/Military Dept. Emergency Management
South Carolina Adjutant General/Military Dept. State Police
South Dakota Public Safety Public Safety
Tennessee Adjutant General/Military Dept. Governor’s Office
Texas Governor’s Office Governor’s Office
Utah Public Safety Homeland Security Dept.
Vermont Public Safety Public Safety
Virginia Public Safety Governor’s Office
Washington Adjutant General/Military Dept. Adjutant General/Military Dept.
West Virginia Military Affairs & Public Safety Governor’s Office
Wisconsin Adjutant General/Military Dept. Adjutant General Military Dept.
Wyoming Dept. of Homeland Security Dept. of Homeland Security

Table 12.9 State Emergency Management and Homeland Security

      Health care providers and hospitals, particularly, can be challenged during an emergency because of limited resources to expand pre-existing capacity.  Health care systems may be limited in space, staffing, and by competing priorities within each regional system.  Innovative solutions are based on collaborations between public health systems and emergency management response teams, such as local police and fire departments.58

      The threat against the nation’s biosecurity is a highly regarded concern within the public health professions.  Biosecurity efforts aim to prevent the development and deployment of biological weapons and germ warfare using pathogens such as bacteria or a virus to attack human populations.  After the Cold War, access to biological agents increased greatly due to reduced safeguards and changes in the geopolitical balance of power. Genetic technology has also improved, creating greater access to some of the most virulent weapons.  To ensure biosecurity, U.S. public health professionals require strong communication systems with emergency management responders, immunized and trained staff, as well as the ability to interrupt likely patterns of attacks accurately.59  After the events of September 11, 2001, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) was created to bolster state preparedness programs.  The budgets of state governments have been adjusted to reflect greater preparedness efforts in compliance with federal guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security.  While greater investment in this area is clearly in evidence, there is no way of knowing with certainty whether current preparations for emergency management are adequate.60

12.E.V – Sustainability in Preparedness Efforts

      Fostering sustainability within emergency management involves supporting the governments’ ability to respond to a variety of crises.  To maintain effective response, organizational and communication infrastructure needs to be supported through adequate funding, targeted training, and ongoing agency collaborations.  Coordination between locally-based public health, law enforcement, and emergency response teams can also foster a strong response to a crisis.61  Planned preparedness activities and periodic “tabletop exercises” simulating extreme events increase response capacity through the interagency collaboration they generate.

      Mobilizing communities during a crisis effectively involves weaving together the social fabric to create an “emergency community.” Reinforcing existing infrastructures within communities, such as schools, church spaces, and community centers establishes a base for disseminating information and distributing aid. Emergency management involves the process of preparing for a variety of threats, including the devastation resulting from natural disasters, environmental crises and the many weapons which might be used in political warfare carried out through terrorist attacks. This relatively new field of government is based on the fear of a catastrophic event.  Because the nature of such emergencies is that they are unpredictable, perfect knowledge to guide government intervention does not exist. Even if we were able to forecast future extreme events with far greater precision, there is no consensus as to which risks should be prioritized.62

Traditional and Visible Services:  What Can I do?

Is your college or university a participant in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability for Higher Education (AASHE)?  If not, take steps to organize your campus for participation.  If yes, then play a leadership role in sustainability on your campus and apply for a Student Leadership Award with the Association. For more information go to:


As mentioned in the text, some states have “three strikes” laws or other legislation that increase the number of individuals in state and local jails and prisons. The movement to be “tough on crime” with more frequent and longer jails sentences for repeat offenders appeals to many Americans.  However, these laws sometimes include nonviolent crimes as the third strike (e.g., shoplifting and drug possession) leading to increased costs of incarceration at the expense of other state programs and services (e.g., education, social services, etc.).  What do you think about this issue?  Contact your state or local law enforcement officials and ask them what they think about this issue at:


  • How close to capacity are the facilities?
  • What offenses receive jail time?
  • Has there been recent legislation that is increasing the number of individuals incarcerated?  If so, how much will it cost?
  • What do local officials suggest as effective ways to maintain the sustainability of the system?  Education programs?  Tougher laws?

12.F – Conclusion

      This chapter has reviewed some of the most visible services provided by state and local government, and some of the largest items found in state budgets and in county and city budgets.  For example, 21.4 percent of the average state operating budget in 2006 went to K-12, followed by 10.4 percent for higher education, 8.1 percent for transportation, and 3.4 percent for corrections.  All of the services discussed are central to the building and maintenance of sustainable states and sustainable local communities within those states.  Lower crime rates and less recidivism, higher levels of educational attainment, reliable, safe and energy-efficient transportation systems, and efficacious and responsive emergency services are pivotal for resilient states and communities as they adapt to the many changes coming their way in modern America.  As we noted throughout this chapter, many of these vital services currently are not adequately funded or managed properly, potentially limiting how public officials adapt to changes as well as the long-term viability of each and every state and local government.  Given these circumstances, the “laboratories of democracy” provided by the American federal system will have to provide the framework for the creation of best practices and innovations in funding schemes which will give rise to the essential services to be disseminated across state and local governments in the U.S.  Just as biodiversity is an asset to ecosystem sustainability and resilience, so should the diversity of approaches taken to solve common problems prove to be of lasting value in the pursuit of sustainability in American state and local government.


At-risk youth
Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education II
Charter schools
Community policing
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Grutter v. Bollinger
Head Start Program
Law and order approach (criminal justice)
No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
Pivotal variable
Plessy v. Ferguson
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg Board of Education
Three strikes laws
Unfunded mandates
User fees
Voucher system

Discussion Questions

1. How do state and local criminal justice policies affect community sustainability?  What types of programs have been suggested for enhancing sustainability?

2. What responsibilities do federal, state and local governments have in K-12 and higher education?  How can education promote sustainable communities?

3. Discuss the importance of state and local governments in the transportation sector.  How can transportation policy affect community sustainability?

4. What is the role of state and local governments in providing emergency management services?  How do these services affect sustainability?


1. F. Hess, “No Child Left Behind: Trends and Issues.” In The Book of the States, 2006 (Lexington, Kentucky: The Council of State Governments, 2006).

2. R. Clark, Crime in America (New York:Simon and Schuster, 1970).

3. E. Banfield, The Unheavenly City Revisited (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974).

4. S.A. Shah and L.H. Roth, “Biological and Psychophysiological Factors in Criminality.” In Daniel Glaser, ed., Handbook of Criminology (Chicago, ILL: Rand McNally, 1974).

5. J.Q. Wilson, Thinking About Crime (New York: Random House, 1985).

6. S.A. Shah and L.H. Roth, 1974, op. cit., (see reference 4).

7. Bureau of Justice Statistics, “U.S. Correctional Population Declined for the Ninth Consecutive Year,” (April 26, 2016). URL:

8. U.S. Department of Justice, “Criminal Victimization, 2006,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Fact Sheet, December 2007 (Washington, D.C.:U.S. Department of Education, 2007), p. 1.

9. A. Roberts, Critical Issues in Crime and Justice (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994).

10. The Council of State Legislators, Book of the States, 2006 (Lexington, Kentucky: The Council of State Governments, 2018).

11. U.S. Department of Justice, “Total Prison Populations” (2016). URL:

12. A. Roberts, 1994, op. cit. (see reference 9).

H. Ruth and K. Reitz, The Challenge of Crime: Rethinking Our Response (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003).

13. U. Bondeson, Alternatives to Imprisonment: Intentions and Reality (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994).

14. H. Ruth and K. Reitz, 2003, op. cit. (see reference 12), pp. 285, 287.

15. J. Mooradian, Disproportionate Confinement of African-American Juvenile Delinquents (New York:  LFB Publishers, 2003).

T. O’Neill, Children in Secure Accommodation(London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001).

16. The Council of State Legislators, 2016, op. cit. (see reference 10).

17. S. Baum and K. Payea, Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society. URL:

18. National Education Association, The Educational Case Against Vouchers. URL:

19. U.S. Department of Education. 2000. The State of Charter Schools 2000: Fourth Year Report.  Washington DC:  U.S. Department of Education.

20. National Education Association. 2006. Charter Schools Show No Gains over Public Schools.  URL:

21. Oyez Project. 2009. Brown v. Board of Education (II), 349 U.S. 294 (1955). URL:

22. Kozol, J. 2005. “Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid,” Harper’s Magazine, 311(1864), September: 41-54.

23. F. Hess, 2006, op. cit. (see reference 1), p. 474.

24. U.S. Department of Education, Every Student Succeeds Act. URL:

25. The Council of State Legislators, 2016, op. cit. (see reference 10).

26. D. Heller, The States and Public Higher Education(Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins Press, 2001).

27. S. Baum and K. Payea, 2005, op. cit. (see reference 17).

R. Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies(Princeton: University of Princeton Press, 1997).

28. P. Lingenfelter and T. Flint. 2003. Adult Learners and State Policy (Denver, CO: State Higher Education Executive Officers, 2003), p. 3.

29. S. Baum and K. Payea, 2005, op. cit. (see reference 17), p. 8.

30. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education (Washington, DC: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008).

31. P. Callan, “Colleges, States Increase Financial Burdens for Students and Families.” In Measuring Up: The National Report Card on Higher Education (Washington, DC: The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 2008), p. 19.

32. Ibid.

33. State Higher Education Executive Officers, Accountability for Better Results: A National Imperative for Higher Education. URL:

34. Ibid.

35. National Governors Association, Higher Expectations (Washington, DC:National Governors Association, 2002), p. 12.

36. D. Heller, 2001, op. cit. (see reference 31), p. 243.

37. State Higher Education Executive Officers, 2005, op. cit. (see reference 38), pp. 6, 7.

38. Congressional Budget Office, “Spending on Infrastructure and Investment,” March 1, 2017. URL:

39. U.S. Department of Transportation, “Status of Highway Trust Fund,” 2018. URL:

40. National Chamber Foundation, Future Highway and Public TransportationFinance: Phase I: Current Outlook and Short-term Solutions (Washington, DC: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2005), pp. 2, 3.

41. National Governors Association, State Policy Options for Funding Transportation(Washington, DC: National Governors Association, 2007).

42. Governmental Accountability Office, Transforming Transportation for the 21stCentury, Washington, DC: Governmental Accountability Office, 2007).

43. Ibid.

National Governors Association, 2007, op. cit. (see reference 46).

44. National Governors Association, 2007, op. cit. (see reference 46), p. 2.

45. Ibid.

Governmental Accountability Office, 2007, op. cit. (see reference 47).

46. A. Lakoff, “Social Life of Risk: Preparing for the Next Emergency,” Public Culture19 (2007): 247- 271.

47. Ibid, p. 253.

R. Ericson, “Ten Uncertainties of Risk-Management Approaches to Security.” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice48 (2006): 345-357.

48. A. Lakoff, 2007, op. cit. (see reference 51), p. 250.

49. R. Ericson, 2006, op. cit (see reference 52), p. 346.

50. S. Collier, A. Lakoff and P. Rabinow, “Biosecurity: Toward an Anthropology of the Contemporary,” Anthropology Today20 (2004): 3-7.

51. P. Jaeger, B. Shneiderman and K. Fleischmann, “Community Response Grids: E-government, Social Networks, and Effective Emergency Management,” Telecommunications Policy31 (2007): 592-604.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. A. Lakoff, 2007, op. cit. (see reference 51).

55. Ibid, p. 267.

56. Ibid, p. 261.

57. Ibid, p. 262.

58. A. Katz, A. Stati, and K. McKenzie, “Preparing for the Unknown, Responding to the Unknown: Communities and Public Health Preparedness,” Health Affairs25 (2006): 946-957.

59. S. Collier, A. Lakoff, and P. Rabinow, 2004, op. cit. (see reference 55).

60. Ibid, p. 5.

61. A. Katz, A. Stati, and K. McKenzie, 2006, op. cit. (see reference 63).

62. M. Douglas and A. Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 1982).


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