That Plan to Close Half of Detroit's Schools? It's Really Happening
by Liz Dwyer
Eminem's acclaimed Super Bowl advertisement for Chrysler told the world that despite what you've heard, Detroit is making a comeback. Tell that to the city's children, because the State of Michigan has sounded the death knell for Detroit Public Schools. DPS's Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), Robert Bobb, has received approval for his plan to shut down half of the city's public schools over the next two years, raising remaining school class sizes to 60 students. The decision could be the tipping point that pushes Michigan into Wisconsin-style protesting.
Bobb's solution addresses a $327 million budget deficit and will reduce the current 142 schools in the district down to 72 by the 2012-13 school year. The plan will likely drive more families out of the Detroit, setting up a domino effect of even more financial problems for the schools.
Steve Conn, a 25-year-veteran teacher at Detroit's Cass Technical High School, is heavily involved in plans to march through the state capital, Lansing, today at noon with teachers, parents, students, and other public education allies. The planned protest targets education budget cuts, the school closings, and a bill that will expand the number of EFM positions in the state.
If the bill passes, it "will allow the state to appoint an EFM over any school district, city or town that is in a financial deficit," says Conn. EFM's have the power to fire entire school boards, change pay and benefits and eliminate union contracts, all without any public debate. When financial times are tough, as they are now in many low-income communities, EFM's can decide to sell off or close libraries, schools and other public buildings, and they're only answerable to the governor. Conn says such a system position "replaces democracy with tyranny."
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