Early Thursday morning the state house narrowly passed a $500 million relief package for Detroit Public Schools, but stripped meaningful provisions that were included in the Senate bill, which was a bipartisan deal to help DPS through meaningful reforms. Lawmakers had agreed to the creation of a Detroit Education Commission which would oversee the opening and closing of all public schools in Detroit — traditional and charter. The commission also had support from Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. However, House Republicans instead opted to expand state control, punish teachers and under-fund financial assistance to repair the financial damage the state emergency managers caused.
We have learned that the debt of Detroit Public Schools is in excess of $800 million, and it is imperative, that an audit be conducted of DPS from 1999 through the present to find out exactly what happened. As we have already seen in Flint, having a single person in charge of all major decisions being made in a city or a district, with the sole directive of cutting costs, spells disaster for the people they’re supposed to be serving. Those ill effects are compounded by how much time emergency managers have been in control of DPS with no checks and balances.
We’ve seen time and time again their refusal to build relationships with local stakeholders or school board members, to listen when our teachers and our administrators.
The fear and anger of our teachers is rising, and it will only grow exponentially until something is done about the crisis facing the Detroit Public Schools. There are too many problems that need fixing and questions that need answers which an audit will help to determine the best path forward when it comes to funding as well as ensure there are no gaps in pay or instruction.
The cost to bring DPS buildings up to code would exceed the $715 million dollars currently touted in the senate bill package. Our kids were already condemned to learn in substandard environments, and now we see that those environments are truly, physically unsafe. If that is not proof that we need to seriously rethink the emergency manager act, I don’t know what else could be. Emergency Manager Darnell Earley had a role in both the Flint water crisis and the crisis now in DPS. I’ve introduced House Bill 5253 to amend PA 436 (Emergency Manager Rule) for this very reason, to ensure we halt the mounting effects of disasters created under Gov. Rick Snyder’s watch.