Financially pinched states across the nation are making draconian cuts in spending for social services and public education. But there's one area that gets gentler treatment under Republican governors and legislators: prisons. In fact, while Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-controlled legislature were whacking
$300 per student from the state's K-12 school budget, he was simultaneously moving
some of the "savings" over to corrections and prisons.
That prompted Nathan Bootz,
of public schools in the small town of Ithaca in central Michigan, to pen a letter to the local Gratiot County Herald suggesting a modest proposal:
Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.
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?!
I don't know how strict the English teachers of the 1350 students in the Ithaca schools are about combining question marks and exclamation points, but surely this is one instance when they would not knock a point off Mr. Bootz's grade. As the superintendent writes, adequately funding schools would give them "the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.”
To be fair, prison spending was also cut in the budget the Michigan legislature approved without a single Democratic vote Thursday. But, proportionately it was half the cut inflicted on public schools.
What's particularly galling about Synder's caterwauling on the need to hack nearly a billion out of K-12 spending, reduce spending for universities and community colleges and cut already meager welfare payments? He simultaneously got the legislature to lower business taxes by $1.8 billion and raise taxes on pensions for seniors.
Resistance to Snyder is building, and an active recall campaign is under way. If you live in Michigan, you can sign up to volunteer at FireRickSnyder.org. As Chris Bowers wrote Thursday, Daily Kos is part of this campaign and will be running ads to promote the recall campaign. If you have a spare $6, please contribute here.