The conservative governors who were elected across the country last November have championed huge cuts to public education spending while resisting efforts to raise revenues from the wealthiest among us. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) proposed cutting millions of dollars from the public education budget, and this week the GOP-controlled state senate passed a “contentious K-12 budget that cuts $470 per student from school districts.”
Outraged by these cuts, Nathan Bootz, the superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools, wrote a letter to the editor in a local paper proposing an idea that could come out of a Jonathan Swift novel: if Snyder intends on draining funding from public schools, maybe Bootz should convert the schools in his district into prisons to get funding.
Noting that Michigan spends “between $30,000 and $40,000” on each prisoner but can barely provide $7,000 per public school student, Bootz says that maybe we need to start treating “our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding“:
In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren’t we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society by educating our youth and preparing them to take on the issues that society has created. […]
This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!
At the end of his letter, Bootz strikes a more serious note, writing that we need to give “our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.” According to statistics from city-data.com, his city, Ithaca, Michigan, has a higher poverty rate than the state average, and much of that poverty is concentrated in children under five years of age and teenagers.
Snyder “on Wednesday signed a bill drastically cutting business taxes while raising taxes on individual taxpayers, putting in place the biggest tax restructuring move since voters in 1994 fundamentally altered the way Michigan pays for public schools through Proposal A.”