Governor Rick Snyder, who as of last Saturday is under the ticking clock of a recall, has made it clear that he doesn’t put much stock in typical American values like schools, seniors, the poor, the middle class, the process of democracy, the right to vote, the rules of law…oh, the list is endless. He values business, but not necessarily the kind of business that will hire workers. No, Snyder’s got a hankering for giving tax breaks to corporations and then increasing the taxes on the elderly. Sort of a reverse RobinHood, if you will.
We also know that Snyder loves him some private prison contracts, even though Michigan’s history with privatizing some prisons didn’t go well the last time a Republican governor rocked the privatization boat. That debacle involved rampant abuse of children, so it’s not too surprising that we find ourselves once again discussing the lack of care for Michigan’s children. This time, a school superintendent notes that Governor Snyder treats prisoners better than school children, and so he respectfully submits that he would like his school to be treated like a prison.
Yes, this is how absurd things have gotten under Snyder. Read on from the Morning Sun :
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 “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.
Ithaca Public Schools
What does it say about priorities when prisoners have better access to healthy food, knowledge, exercise, and books than schools?
I never thought I’d see the day when school districts were begging for their school children to be treated as well as prisoners. But, just like all fundamental change that swoops in under the guise of moderation, Snyder and the Republicans across this land don’t want public schools to do well. This turn of events pleases them, as by starving the “beast” and thereby making it ineffectual, they can bolster their claim that public schools are no good. This opens the door for smug lectures about school vouchers, which is really just a way to privatize a public work, and we all know why the government keeps some segments out of the for-profit sector.
Not everything in life was meant to turn a profit. Some things exist for the good of the people, for opportunity, for the betterment of our nation as a whole, even. Public schools are one of them. But even as we acknowledge this, not one Republican has shown that vouchers save money or have better systems than public schools. After all, if everyone who was in public school was in a voucher school, they would also suffer from high teacher-student ratios and lack of funds in some districts.
Ah, now we get to the heart of it. Those “some” districts are not the chosen districts. Republicans don’t believe in equal opportunity for all. They would prefer to keep the wealthier children segregated, while claiming that separate is equal. This argument is of course dead in the water, so they starve the “beast” in hopes of proving that it is such a failure, we have no other option in these “emergency” times other than to go privatization. And who benefits when we do that? The public taxpayers? Nope.
They say the taxpayer benefits, but they never prove this. They can’t prove it because it’s not true. In fact, a recent Policy Matters Ohio study proves that it often costs the taxpayers more to run the prisons privately than for the state to run them.
While the issue of Michigan prisons is a long history and not all of it pretty, the point is still valid. It isn’t that prisoners shouldn’t get food, internet, and books — but if we must treat prisoners a certain way so as to not step on their rights, shouldn’t we consider treating our children to the same rights? Yes, there are fiscal challenges facing the state, but why not raise some revenue for the state the way most revenue is generated, if indeed the state is hurting so much? Wouldn’t corporate taxes be a part of the “shared sacrifices” Republicans keep nattering on about when they’re not trying to kill Medicare by making it a voucher system?
Of course, Michigan prisons won’t stay this good under Snyder; he’s already pushing for punk prisons, because nothing says modern day Republican like privatizing, no-bid contracts, and a lack of humanity. Snyder has wasted no time gutting education in the name of fiscal emergencies, while he funnels millions more to the prison systems. Now, why would a Republican funnel money to prisons? Not out of care for the rights of prisoners. Oh, no. If you’re thinking Wackenhut, you’re right on the money. Private contracts, baby. Money. Snyder’s “budget” proposed “saving” money by bidding out food services and prison store operations in the Department of Corrections. In theory, this sounds fiscally smart, but privatization of prisons has not gone well in Michigan and privatization in general leads to lack of oversight and accountability, while introducing the profit motive, which does not often translate into saving money or better services.
So the schools won’t be made as good as the prisons; under Snyder, the prisons will be made as bad as the schools. There. Now everyone feels bad.
Note: Mr Bootz’ op-ed was also turned into a letter to Gov Snyder.