Michigan Legislature still debating provisions of bills that would end DPS
Current Detroit Board of Education, parents file class action lawsuit citing irreparable harm to Detroit’s children under state control
Retaliation continues against teachers who closed 80 percent of Detroit schools during walk-outs protesting building conditions
By Diane Bukowski
April 24, 2016
DETROIT – The far right-wing war to dismantle the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district continues; a July 16 DPS “execution date” is set under pending state legislation.
Meanwhile, DPS board members and parents await the results of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed April 6 against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his Emergency Managers (EM)’s, and Detroit teachers face continuing attacks for a series of walk-outs that shut down 80 percent of Detroit’s schools earlier this year.
“The war is on,” Detroit Board of Education President Herman Davis said during a press conference April 7 on the lawsuit. “We must move forward as a community, and stop the school to prison pipeline. This is just like in slavery days. They are taking our Black children and selling them to the highest bidder. It’s genocide.”
On the legislative front, the State Senate has approved bills 710, 711, 819, 820, 821, and 822, which would replace DPS with a “community district” including charter schools, all under state control, and abolish the current Board.
The new board would answer to the same State Financial Review Commission that controls the city of Detroit under the bankruptcy plan.
It would also create a “Detroit Education Commission” appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, to determine school siting. (See earlier VOD article, linked below, which laid out provisions of the bills.)
Senate members and their supporters in the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children, co-chaired by Rev. Wendell Anthony, with Walbridge Aldinger CEO and Snyder ally John Rakolta, Jr., among others, are now wrangling with members of the House of Representatives over whether the legislation is sufficiently pro-charter school.
But State Sen. Coleman A. Young II (D-Detroit), expressed his complete opposition to the Senate bills during debate in the Senate.
“I want to make it clear that this is not a bailout,” Young said. “This is repaying DPS money that the state put into debt in the first place, and it’s not enough money for the debt that the state put DPS in. . . .there is no academic reform or support in this whatsoever. Sixty‑six percent of the children in Detroit Public Schools are not proficient in reading. Forty-seven percent of the city is functionally illiterate. This, to me, seems more about governance, contracts, and who gets the money than about doing what is best to educate our children.”
(See link below story for VOD’s earlier description of Senate bills.)
On April 20, 31 state Republicans signed a resolution to dissolve the elected State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction which it appoints.
Under terms of the resolution, the governor would appoint a director of a state Department of Education. Such an action, however, would require a state constitutional amendment.
The resolution’s sponsor, State Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Township), said “It has become increasingly obvious that students in Detroit would be better off if DPS simply went away,” in an op-ed in the Detroit News April 9. He proposed instead that the state issue voucher payments to parents to send their children to private schools.
But Detroit school board members, parents, and their attorney Thomas Bleakley said April 7 that state control has been responsible for the Detroit district’s extreme distress, pointing to the chart below.
They provided a power point package summarizing their stand and details of the decline of DPS under state control. (See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DBE-presentation.pdf.)
Accompanying the package was a letter asking the public in part to “Oppose any dissolution or replacement of Detroit Public Schools. . . .oppose any further intervention and/or experimentation on Detroit schoolchildren . . . demand that the State of Michigan conduct a specific audit to determine the causes and origins of the DPS deficit . . . .[and] immediately empower the current and already elected School board. (See full letter at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DBEletter.pdf.)
The lawsuit, Pauling et al v. Snyder et al, filed against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, his Emergency Managers, and their cronies April 6, says the state is waging an unbridled assault on the right of Detroit’s children, particularly children of color, to a “free, public, adequate and worthy education,” in the words of Bleakley. It asks for a trial by jury and “compensatory and punitive damages.”
(See full lawsuit at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/DPS-lawsuit-v-Snyder.compressed.pdf. )
“There is a now a greater percentage of school drop-outs, more children are entering the criminal justice system, and more cannot get in college,” since state control, Attorney Bleakley said.
School board member Elena Herrada said the number of children being suspended, with no recourse, is rising. There are only two suspension hearings officers, and no translators for Spanish and Arabic-speaking parents.
A Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) study, “The School to Prison Pipeline,” earlier found that children of color, particularly Black children, are disproportionately suspended across the state, leaving them to the mercy of the streets.
Students have been left without schools, period. The majority of DPS schools have been closed since the state takeover, leaving 89 bona fide public schools in 2016, out of 261 in 1994, depriving entire communities of the institutions that once anchored them.
“Seventy-seven school buildings have been bundled and given to the City of Detroit to pay an alleged water drainage debt,” Herrada said. “Art, music and math teachers have been cut from the budget. Teachers have had their pay cut and their health care benefits slashed. Take our children out of these oppressive warehouses!”
Speakers also expressed absolute opposition to the Senate bills.
“We vehemently oppose the Senate bills,” Board member Lamar Lemmons said. “They are nothing but a bait and switch tactic, giving the illusion of democracy with an ‘elected’ school board [answering to the State Financial Review Commission] in place of the duly elected board which now exists, which we call the ‘School Board in Exile’ because all our powers have been stolen under the EM.”
He added, “Both the Community School District and the Detroit Election Commission allow the Mayor to pick charter schools for his friends and campaign contributors. More millage dollars and construction dollars are involved in the plan. If these are such great ideas, why don’t they have them in Grosse Pointe? Don’t Jim Crow Detroit!”
Kathy Carthron (featured in Channel 7 video above) has an eight-year-old autistic son attending DPS, which has closed facilities for special needs students including the Oakman Orthopedic School and the Detroit Day School for the Deaf. DPS has merged their students with the general population of students, with teachers untrained in handling their needs.
“My son has been abused in Detroit Public Schools,” Carthron said. “They have left him sitting in a mess in diapers. He doesn’t have enough time to eat. This is against the law. ”
She said her son was “kidnapped” by Checker Cab after being left without a way home on a day when school ended early.
“This attack on public education is going on all across the country,” said Helen Moore, founder of the Keep the Vote No Takeover Coalition. “Black and Brown children are being harmed irreparably by corporate interests who want to profit from public education.”
She cited in particular New Orleans, which now has the nation’s first all-charter school district, called the Recovery School District. Seventy percent of charter schools are operated for profit. Parents there have also filed a class-action lawsuit. (See video below.)
Meanwhile, a May 16 hearing has been scheduled in an ongoing state lawsuit titled, “The School District of the City of Detroit v. Detroit Federation of Teachers et al,” which targets teachers who earlier participated in a series of well-publicized sick-outs. The actions drew broad attention to the horrific conditions in what is left of Detroit’s public school buildings.
Large demonstrations have been held by teachers, parents and students outside the hearings, held at Cadillac Place on W. Grand Blvd., which houses the State of Michigan’s Detroit offices. (See video at top of story.) The sick-outs have received national coverage, including in the pages of Time Magazine. (See link below story.)
Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens earlier denied the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction against the walkouts. In ordering the May 16 hearing, to be held at noon, Judge Stephens said, “The issue here is whether the defendants engaged in conduct which was in violation of the EM [order] 1-15 but protected by the First Amendment.”
Her order, at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/School-district-v-DFT-order.pdf, cites language from the Michigan Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), which says, “This act does not limit, impair, or affect the right of a public employee to the expression or communication of a view, grievance, complaint, or opinion on any matter related to the conditions or compensation of public employment or their betterment as long as the expression or communication does not interfere with the full, faithful, and proper performance of the duties of employment. [MCL 433.201.2].”
The Chicago Teachers Union has repeatedly struck and conducted informational rallies against the dismantling of schools in that city, taking a much stronger and more effective stance than the current DFT since its previously elected president Steve Conn was ousted for his militancy.
Singled out for attack in the lawsuit are Conn and Nicole Conaway, who taught at the now-privatized Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant students and their children. They became nationally known when they walked out to stop the dissolution of their school.
#SaveOurKids, #SaveOurChildren, #SaveDPS, #StopSchoolClosings, #MoneyforEducationnotforBanks, #MoneyforEducationnotforwar, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #BlackEducationMatters, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #StoptheWaronBlackAmerica, #DefendPublicEducation
From Time Magazine: