News Story

Superintendent to Governor: 'Make My School a Prison'

Are inmates treated better than students?

A public school superintendent asked Gov. Rick Snyder to “make my school a prison” as he complained about proposed budget cuts in a letter to the editor he recently submitted to local papers.

In the May 11 letter, Ithaca Public Schools Superintendent Nathan Bootz 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. 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.”

The district confirmed this week that the two elementary schools and the high school each have their own media center and library. The high school also has a weight room. And in August of 2010, voters approved a $3.4 million bond for roof replacement and for technology equipment.

Bootz didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

State Rep. Tom McMillin called the letter “inflammatory rhetoric.”

“The guy just can’t be serious,” McMillin said. “It shows they don’t want to live in reality and make a few tough decisions.”

The state of Michigan spends about $2 billion to house about 45,400 prisoners. The state spent about $12 billion to educate about 1.5 million students.

But students are educated 180 days a year for 7.5 hours a day. Prisoners are housed 24/7.

Students cost roughly $6.46 per hour to educate. Prisoners cost $5.92 per hour to house. Michigan schools also receive federal funding that isn’t included in this hourly rate analysis.

“I’m willing to give Mr. Bootz the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t seriously mean to turn schools into prisons,” said Paul Kersey, the director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in an email. “But when he says that ‘Schools are the one place on Earth that people look to to “fix” what is wrong with society,’ he is revealing an incredibly self-centered outlook that permeates the public school system. Important as education might be, public schools are not the only things that matter. We have police and prisons to apprehend and isolate criminals. We have fire and EMS units to respond to emergencies. These are every bit as important as public schools. Mr. Bootz needs to realize that there are people outside of the school system and even outside of government who do valuable work, and who need resources to do their jobs.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.