The trifecta that is the prison, military and educational industrial systems has just reached an all time low. Besides the countless Americans that are unemployed and in debt over their collective head, Ithaca School Superintendent, Nathan Bootz, has just spelled out how broke down our nation’s systems of governance has become. In the Superintendent’s message to Governor Snyder of Michigan, he asks to the point of supplication to transform a school into a prison.

A graphic of California Per Student Spending Decline

California Per Student Spending Decline

In California, according to California Budget Bites, California rank 47th in per pupil spending.

Bootz’s argument, better funding and a much better cared for population.
While I take the subject matter of his letter very seriously, one cannot help but notice the tone of ridicule that is aimed at all of us in America with respect to how our priorities are all wrong. Local organizations such as Ella Baker Center have been fighting to provide an alternative to prison while developing programs that reduce the risk of incarceration among youth. Meanwhile, long time activist Angela Davis has written extensively on how the prison industrial complex does not “rehabilitate” anyone and should be dismantled.

Dear Governor Snyder,

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.

One solution I believe we must do is take a look at our corrections system in Michigan. We rank nationally at the top in the number of people we incarcerate. We also spend the most money per prisoner annually than any other state in the union. Now, I like to be at the top of lists, but this is one ranking that I don’t believe Michigan wants to be on top of.

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?!

Please provide for my students in my school district the same way we provide for a prisoner. It’s the least we can do to prepare our students for the future…by giving our schools the resources necessary to keep our students OUT of prison.

Respectfully submitted,

Nathan Bootz
Superintendent
Ithaca Public Schools

After reading the letter, I too would like to know why we spend so much money building and running prisons; yet so little money to keep our schools infrastructure and technology current enough to create a competent, and dare I say, competitive work-force?

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