Detroit, Mich.—An “Emergency Community Meeting on School Closings” on Superbowl Sunday drew 400 advocates for public education in Detroit. The state School Reform Office (which Governor Rick Snyder—yes, the Governor in charge of Flint, Mich.—moved from the Department of Education to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget) plans to close 38 low-performing schools, 25 in Detroit. They had the nerve to state that “bad” schools—“bad” meaning only low standardized test scores—would stay open if there were no “better” nearby schools. Furthermore, parents should consider alternative districts up to 50 miles from the city!
Ms. Aurora Harris spoke of the 4,000-5,000 special education children—out of 47,000 in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS)—who are rejected by charter schools but who also do not get adequate legally mandated services from DPS. Ms. Helen Moore—a founder, 50 years ago, of Black Parents for Quality Education—told us, “We are at war. And I don’t do second-class citizenship.”
Action-planning breakout sessions focused on advocacy for special needs students, organizing demonstrations and building the independent freedom school movement. One committee plans to organize not just parents, staff and students, but community organizations and institutions in the neighborhoods of the targeted schools, some of them in new or newly-renovated buildings. We will do community assessments to identify what is right with those schools as well as what help they need and also bring hitherto untapped community resources to them.
—Retired teacher, Detroit