By Madi Tortora
The Detroit Public School System has been deteriorating nearly as quickly as the actual schools themselves. Now, instead of Detroit being known for its growth, it is becoming more known for its decay.
Under the cloud of the Flint water crisis, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been under severe scrutiny. In early January, Snyder issued a warning during his State of the State address and urged lawmakers to take action against the hazardous finances of Detroit Public Schools.
Yet, the finances aren’t the only thing about DPS that are hazardous. Rats and roaches scurry across the floor, while students look out the bullet-hole-littered windows. The musty smell of mold, along with water, leaks through the holes in the ceiling. Toilets are broken to nearly unusable lengths.
“We have a 19th century education system in the 21st century. It’s time to ask why,” Snyder said in his State of the State address.
And that’s exactly what parents and teachers are doing.
Darnell Earley, the state-appointed manager for DPS since January of 2015, resigned from his district position in late February. This was shortly after the Detroit Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit calling for the district to fire Earley, and begin the process of bettering the school to meet building code standards and avoid the threat of closure.
Before the lawsuit, teachers were staging ‘sick-outs,’ meaning to call attention to the oversized classes and the horribly dilapidated buildings. One of the largest sick-outs was earlier this year, and, according to the Detroit Free Press, caused 88 Detroit schools to close.
With these conditions, it is already an extremely difficult environment to learn and teach in. Teaching in rooms with no textbooks, buckling floors, and barely usable classroom materials is mortifying, and many teachers haven’t had pay raises in years. Because of the extreme budget deficits, instructors have actually had to deal with pay cuts and benefit reductions. Now, the latest news is even worse: the possibilities of payless paydays.
With the Legislature showing little enthusiasm about Snyder’s proposal for a $700 million bailout for DPS, the lack of action is causing more suffering. The demand for local control of the school system remains unheard. At this point, citizens both living in and surrounding Detroit are waiting for the school system to cave in. Literally. This would leave Detroit’s approximately 46,000 students in the system at a loss for education.
It is time for the Legislature, along with Snyder himself, to take the issues surrounding DPS seriously. Students are becoming sick from the conditions, suffering from asthma, vomiting, and nosebleeds on a daily basis. This is no environment for anyone to be learning or teaching in. It is time to put the people first.