The economy has been tough on all of us, but it has been especially difficult on schools. Whenever there is an economic downturn, the first things to get cut are funding for education and other social programs.

Despite their utter necessity, many treat schools as if they are a drag on society, not institutions that potentially level the playing field and prepare a generation of future leaders.

Last week, wholly frustrated by the lack of funding for its schools, Ithaca Public Schools superintendent Nathan Bootz, wrote a letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder imploring him to turn his district’s schools into prisons.

Why would an educational profession beg to have his school turned into correctional facilities? No, it’s not because he feels his students are doomed to end up there anyway. Dr. Bootz asked that Ithaca Public Schools be turned into prisons for one reason—money.

In the state of Michigan, like many other states, prison funding far exceeds monies spent on schools. And although it would make more sense to spend the bulk of money on investing in children and making sure they receive a high-quality education which will help them make better choices than those that lead to prison, the reality is, it just isn’t happening.

Dr. Bootz wants to see this change. He wrote:

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, access to weight rooms, and access to computer labs. While in prison they can earn a degree. Convicts get a roof over their heads and clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

We treat our prisoners better than we treat our school children. 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 they can be big and strong.

We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of our youth, who represent our future? You’d think we’d to more to secure the future of our own students. Instead, we keep hammering the educational institutions to do their jobs better with less money. It would be nice if our prisoners could start living a little leaner and with fewer resources.

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.

As a teacher, I can’t stress just how debilitating budget cuts have been on our schools. From having to come out of pocket to buy paper, pencils, and books for my students to hearing about new prisons being built, while our neighborhood schools are falling apart, knowing that my state (and others) rather spend more money locking people up rather than educating them and preventing future incarceration is both astounding and disheartening.

As educators struggle to inspire our students and teach them what they need to know—in spite of the challenges—it’s good to know that many, like Dr. Bootz, also have our students’ backs.

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