Friday, January 22, 2016

Amid Deplorable Conditions of Detroit Public Schools, Teachers Stage Sickouts

Like the toxic water situation in Flint, Detroit is facing its own crisis. A decade of bad decision-making, privatization of services (e.g., maintenance and transportation), and emergency financial managers has not stopped the declining student enrollment, corruption (as with the federal indictment of ex-Chicago Public Schools superintendent and former DPS academic and accountability officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett), and mounting debt in Detroit Public Schools (DPS). The school system is so inundated with debt that it lacks funding to focus on repairs to aging school buildings. Years of neglect and delayed maintenance has created a toxic situation where students and teachers are exposed daily to dangerous elements: water leaks, mold, falling ceiling tile, exposed electrical wiring, dead rodents, and other poor conditions. Students cannot use the gym because it is unsafe to use. Students have to wear coats in their classrooms because there is no heat in their building. Yet, the state leadership continues to be indifferent towards poor and minority children learning in inhumane classroom settings.

From Diversity, Inc:

Teachers in Detroit have been protesting the deplorable conditions of their schools and on Wednesday staged their biggest “sick-out,” where teachers refused to work to bring attention to the matter. This forced 88 of the city’s 97 public schools to close, according to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Facebook page.

Some of the problems schools face include significantly overpopulated classrooms, leaky ceilings, mildew, broken heaters, warped floors, bugs and rats. In addition to the poor building conditions, teachers are also protesting cuts in salaries and increased health care expenses.

Like Flint, Detroit is also a majority-Black city, with 82.7 percent of its population being Black. This greatly contrasts with the overall population of Michigan, which is 14.2 percent Black, as well as the U.S. Black population of 12.7 percent.

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