How not to defend schools

December 10, 2015

From the November-December 2015 issue of News & Letters

Detroit—The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) held a rally to support school boiler operators, their fellow union members. Under proposed budget cuts each operator now responsible for one site would cover up to five. This holds great risks to everyone in aging school buildings. Yet at an Education Town Hall the day before, convened by State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, not one person mentioned the rally.

One member of the powerless elected school board said, “I never thought I’d see the day when I’d refuse to pay union dues, but the Michigan Federation of Teachers has been in bed with the school takeover by the state and charter operators in poor and Black school districts. What are our choices here, charters or cults?”


“Cults” refers to former DFT President Steve Conn, who ignored teachers, staff, students, parents—all but the tiny minority of teachers sympathetic to his organization, By Any Means Necessary. Recently removed from office, Conn now fights for his job instead of for Detroit teachers and students.

Most city public high schools, recently renovated with millions of taxpayer dollars, are now run directly by the state, by officials under investigation for corruption. Reform is desperately needed, but the proposed empowerment zones will empower only the governor, the corrupt officials, school contractors and charter operators.

–Susan Van Gelder


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