Update: May 27, 2011 4:30 p.m.
Prisoners or pupils? Who has it better?
That's the question raised by a local superintendent who says students shouldn't have to go to prison to be properly funded.
However, others say, the comparison is worthless.
"If we spend one dollar more on a prisoner than we do a child, then that's wrong," says Nathan Bootz, superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools.
That comment has more than just the Ithaca Yellow Jackets buzzing.
Bootz says national news outlets, the Michigan Department of Education, and school officials from at least 20 states have commented on his letter to Governor Rick Snyder requesting he make Ithaca Schools a prison.
Bootz says it's embarrassing that prisoners eat better than some students. "I feed them breakfast. I feed them lunch. I don't feed them dinner, and what worries me as an educator and a parent, what happens on Friday? I can't guarantee that kid is going to go home and have a dinner Friday night. You got all day Saturday, all day Sunday."
Bootz says the state should spend the same $30,000 to $40,000 a year it does on prisoners rather than the $7,000 it does a year on students.
Critics say students get more than that. "Overall, Michigan schools get about $13,000 per pupil," says Michael Van Beek, Director of Education Policy at the Mackinac Center.
Van Beek says it's not a fair comparison. He says pupils are served around 7.5 hours a day, 180 days a year. However, prisoners are served 24/7/365. "If we were to provide schooling, if you would call it that, 24 hours a day to kids, obviously the cost would increase. It would probably be similar or more than what we spend on prisoners."
The superintendent says he's been accused of making this a publicity stunt. He says it has nothing to do with publicity, but rather having a serious dialogue about funding and public education.
"I'm glad we're talking about education and what we can do to make it better. That's the whole point of me writing the letter," says Bootz.
The superintendent says while things like transportation and sports are not mandated by law, he says schools have to have them and pay for them from shrinking budgets or students will leave for other districts.
The superintendent says he's surprised how his story has taken off. He says, if the cuts continue into next year his class sizes could go from 20 students to 30 students.
Update: May 27th, 11:05 a.m.
This story has lit up with comments. On the NBC25 facebook page, Bethany says, "Sarcasm? Does he really think he can accomplish anything with sarcasm? I know Mr. Bootz as my child was educated under him & am honestly stunned that he would write such a letter. I think he showed a gross lack of maturity with this letter. People seem to just want to complain for complaining's sake. People should try to come up with some workable solutions rather than writing sarcastic letters such as this!"
Here on the story, Amanda Jimpkoski states, "Very STRONG Argument That I Would Stand Behind All The Way! This Is Obviously One VERY SMART Man That Really Knows What He's Talking About. My Husband& I Will Raise Our Children To Know Graduating High School And Possibly Going To College Are Pretty Much A Must In Regards To Living A Good, Productive Life!! Thank-You Very Much For Writing Such Wonderful Words Of Wisdom Mr. Nathan Bootz..
Do you think this letter was lacked maturity, or is it a strong argument?
The Ithaca Public Schools Superintendent has asked Governor Rick Snyder to convert my school to a prison.
Superintendent Nathan Bootz sent the following letter to Governor Rick Snyder. Read it, and let us know what you think by leaving your comments here or on the NBC25 Facebook page:
In these tough economic times, schools are hurting. And yes, everyone in Michigan is hurting right now financially, but why aren TMt we protecting schools? Schools are the one place on Earth that people look 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 TMt 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 TMm 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 TMs 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.
Nathan BootzSuperintendentIthaca Public Schools
NBC25 is planning to speak Superintendent Bootz on Friday. What questions would you liked asked about this letter?