‘A real punch in the gut’ for Detroit

a man setting a one hundred dollar bill on fire

Tribune News Service

Just a few days after a Voice reporter wrote a column about the crumbling Detroit Public School system (SEE RELATED STORY), news breaks that at least a dozen current and former principals of Detroit schools have been taking bribes, also known as kickbacks, nearing one million dollars. In a city already renowned for its corruption, these people still shocked the Detroit area with the new lows they reached through their crimes.

So while schools are crumbling and are in continuing need of financial support, the principals who should be guiding schools out of this unfortunate situation, are now just contributing to their demise. It should now be on the shoulders of those who have abused these positions of power to right their own wrongs and replace the money they’ve taken.

While a million dollars may not fix all the issues, it’s a good place to start. These corrupt school officials aren’t the only ones to blame. Businessman Norman Shy, owner of Allstate Sales, was also involved in the extortion. He’d work with the various principals and have them fill out fake invoices for school supplies. Then, some of the orders were “never received.”

“The real victims in a case like this are students and families…the teachers and the educators who want to make a difference,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade, NBC reported. “A case like this is a real punch in the gut.”

McQuade couldn’t have said it any better. While these officials reaped the benefits of their wrongdoings, they forgot to worry about the teachers educating Detroit’s youth in uninhabitable conditions, or students sharing learning resources that are lacking in the school system. No matter the amount of money or who else is to blame, these actions are criminal, and after more than two years of investigation, it’s time to start holding people accountable.

At a time when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is probably up to his eyeballs in complaints not only about the Flint water crisis, but now the lack of DPS funding, he signed legislation last week that would give $48.7 million to the schools to get them through the end of the school year. If this wouldn’t have happened, employees risked not being paid anymore after the beginning of April.

While this may be a short-term solution, if something isn’t done long-term, the issue has the potential to affect Michigan as a whole, including negatively affecting other school districts. In so many ways, the youth of a city is the future of a city, and no city needs growth now more than Detroit. If we aren’t giving each student a fighting chance at an education, what chance are we giving Detroit?

Between declining enrollment, deteriorating buildings, and ongoing scandal, the operating debt for DPS is approximately $515 million. And although it might be dangerous to say this, Detroit can find ways to help fund a new Red Wings stadium (about $284.5 million from public investment), yet not much has been done to aid the crippling school system? This is just one example of where decision making has gone wrong — where entertainment, greediness and bribery have somehow taken the driver’s seat over students receiving an education and teachers being able to do their jobs.

While it’s not too late to save DPS, the outlook is bleak unless something is done immediately, or at least by June 30 before the $48.7 million runs out. If there is ever a time for the people of Detroit to come together to make a change, the time was yesterday. Let this be our wake up call.

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