What do Newt Gingrich and the NAACP have in common?

Starting today, it's a new billboard in town.

The latest addition to LA's sea of giant-ass signs is on Century Boulevard, compliments of the NAACP, and states that in the past 23 years state spending on jails has risen 20 times faster than on higher education.

It's just one of many jarring stats compiled by the leading civil rights organization in a recent report that looks at the connection between poorly performing schools and high rates of incarceration.

Most shocking, but perhaps not surprising, according to the report, is that 67 percent of the lowest performing schools in LA are in neighborhoods with the highest incarceration rates.

On the other end, 68 percent of the city's highest performing schools are in areas with the lowest incarceration rates.

Map tracks where good and bad schools are; Credit: NAACP

Map tracks where good and bad schools are; Credit: NAACP

“Failing schools, college tuition hikes and shrinking state education budgets are narrowing the promise of education for young people all across the country,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous has said. “Meanwhile, allocations for our incarceration system continue to increase, sending our youth the wrong message about their future.”

Starting in July, according to the report, LAUSD is planning a more-than $600 million budget cut, resulting in massive teacher lay-offs, an increase in class sizes and fewer after-school programs.

Meanwhile, a third of all prisoners in California come from LA, states the report, and “the bulk of the $3 billion spent every year by taxpayers to incarcerate people from Los Angeles flows out from the city and county, to prisons around the state.”

The NAACP is calling for a new strategy and approach that spends less money on incarceration and instead takes those savings and invests it in education.

Los Angeles, along with Houston and Philadelphia, were cities that the NAACP selected to place billboards. It is part of the organization's “Smart and Safe Campaign,” aimed at reforming the criminal justice system.

Jealous, along with Rod Paige, former Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, and David Keene, former chairman of the American Conservative Union and First Vice President of the NRA, unveiled the NAACP report today in Washington, D.C.

Newt Gingrich did not appear, but sent a statement of support.

“The report released today highlights many innovative solutions that rightly emphasize rehabilitation, aim to reduce recidivism rates, and fortify communities across the country that have been ravaged by mass incarceration,” he wrote.

“This is a tragedy, and is simply not sustainable.”

LA Weekly