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Public School Superintendent Tells MI Governor, ‘Make my School a Prison’

1 June, 2011 (13:26) | Community & Society, Education, Michigan, Modern Life, Public K-12 Schools, Social Change, US Politics | By: Peter Kinder

Salem, Mass.: Custom House (ca. 1820) 3/21/10

          The Superintendent of the Ithaca, Michigan, public schools wrote an open letter to his state’s Governor, Rick Snyder.  It appeared in the May 12 edition of the Gratiot County Herald.  Despite the fact it speaks for itself, some commentary follows.  This is the text of his letter as printed:

 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

           I found this letter via Alternet’s news feed for May 28.  Its source was a post by ‘Meteor Blades’ on The Daily Kos.  ‘Meteor Blades’ reports:

 …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.

 ****

 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.

          The Deficit Dogs at the state level have a social agenda stories like this make clear.  It is the end of all services public.  In Ft. Worth, the city has removed ‘public’ from its library’s name.  Public schools now charge fees for school activities, including athletics, advanced courses and books.  Public universities have been forced to price themselves out of many students’ reach.

           More on the end of ‘public’ another day.

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Comment from Tom Welsh
Time 2011/06/02 at 08:17

“It is often asked whether certain political or social freedoms, such as the liberty of political participation and dissent, or opportunities to receive basic education, are or are not ‘conducive to development’.
In the light of the more foundational view of development as freedom, this way of posing the question tends to miss the important understanding that these substantive freedoms (that is, the liberty of political participation or the opportunity to receive basic education or health care) are among the constituent components of development. Their relevance for development does not have to be freshly established through their indirect contribution to the growth of GNP or to the promotion of industrialization”
Amyrta Sen, quoted in the 2002 Education For All Global Monitoring Report: Is the World on Track? Chapter 1 pp.32

Even that arch- apologist for Capitalist market economics, the former head of the World Bank , sees education as an essential investment for a successful capitalist state.

“All agree that the single most important key to development and to poverty alleviation is education. This must start with universal primary education for girls and boys equally, as well as an open and competitive system of secondary and tertiary education . . . Adult education, literacy, and lifelong learning must be combined with the fundamental recognition that education of women and girls is central to the process of development.”
James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, “A Proposal for a comprehensive Development Framework, 1999.

Even the World Bank in its most evangelical passion has never advocated ‘free market provision of education.
It is time that the free market capitalist admitted their position on the function of the state. The primary function of the state is to defend and sustain capitalism and capitalist and when required subsidise their failures. If there is doubt about this please speak to US Banking Industry, Car Industry, Aircraft to highlight a few. Ask how many welfare ‘cheats’ are imprisonned and compare with Capitalist cheats!

We need to stop this silly debate. What we are seeing is the operation of capitalist free market ideology when it assumes that it has dominance. If you do not like their behaviour then it is time to question their ideology and insitutionalo systems.

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