Detroit teachers and parents fight school closings

From the March-April 2017 issue of News & Letters

Detroit—A flood of outraged resistance has forced the Michigan School Reform Office to beat a hasty retreat from the letter it sent to parents in January, that it would close 38 low-performing schools in predominantly minority districts. Twenty-four schools in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) are on the list, but that letter went out before the DPSCD was even notified!

A grassroots group, 482Forward, has gathered data and is organizing activities to prevent all the closings. The DPSCD school board and administration, the State Board of Education, the Wayne County Regional Educational Services Administration oppose the wholesale closures. Now even Governor Rick Snyder wants more study and has delayed the final closure announcement until May.

Just days after the potential school closures were first announced, 400 teachers, parents and activists came out on Super Bowl Sunday to network, advocate for special-needs students, organize demonstrations, and build the independent freedom school movement. Ms. Aurora Harris spoke of the 4,000 to 5,000 special education children (out of 47,000 in the DPSCD) who are rejected by charter schools, but who still do not get adequate legally mandated services.

Ms. Helen Moore, a founder of Black Parents for Quality Education 50 years ago, told us, “We are at war. And I don’t do second-class citizenship.”

At a community meeting, one retired teacher urged people to recognize that calling a school “bad” only means low test scores. “We need to talk more about what is right with the schools, and let the children know that poor test scores do not define them. We also need to change the relationship of the schools to their communities, and recognize that the communities can provide resources to support not just academics but the human development of the children.”

—Retired Detroit teacher

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