DETROIT––In order to boost academic performance in the heavily African city of Detroit, the State of Michigan has been trying for some time now to reform its public schools. For the past 20 years, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has been in decline. With the intervention of Trump’s education secretary and billionaire heiress Betsy Devos, DPS has been pushing African students towards an increasing number of charter schools. DPS brought in an emergency manager and closed some public schools while transforming others into corporate-backed charter schools.
In 2016, the DPS district was split in two, with $200 million approved to fund them, despite the old district already being in debt. DPS put a new school grading system in place, and formed the Detroit Education Commission to regulate school closings and openings. This commission could also accept money from both public and private donors.
None of these “efforts” provided a solution to improve academics, as students were still failing and many schools were still forced to close. In accordance with state law, schools that consistently fall in the bottom 5 percent can be forced to close, and in early January, it was announced that among the 38 Michigan schools slated to close, at least 16 Detroit public schools would be shuttered.
Closing schools equals crisis for African students
In addition to those closures, next year 35 more schools are slated to close if they do not improve academically. Among these schools are Edwin Denby High School, Mumford High School, Pershing High School and all three of the newly formed Osborn schools.
Some of the schools on the list have been open only a few months, but what anyone has yet to answer is, if these schools do in fact close, where will the former students go to continue their studies?
Most schools on the list are nowhere near a school that’s doing any better. For example, Pontiac High School is on the list and is the only high school in its district.
African mother, China Lee, stated she will be sending her son to the Berkley school district (which is 89 percent white) as his school is scheduled to close next year, but that it is “extremely inconvenient since [her] support is closer to the [current] school.” This situation leaves African parents with few options and hard decisions.
Do they send their child to a neighboring district? Can they provide the transportation required in a city with an extremely inadequate transportation system? If not, do they leave the city to move closer to a better school district? Can they afford to do that? Do they send their children to an equally failing charter school in an equally poor neighborhood?
Planning the failure of African students
School closures also raise the question of how closings will affect neighborhoods, as Detroit already has a problem with blight. Even with the hope that some of these schools will not shutter their doors, how will they address the problem of poor academic performance? Why are these schools failing?
There have been multiple teacher and student strikes because of outdated textbooks, lack of supplies, and unsafe conditions in the schools.
In 2015 and 2016, several schools discovered dangerous mold and unsafe drinking water. None of the “solutions” the State has provided are real solutions at all. The education, health, and overall well-being of African parents and their children are obviously of no concern to the State of Michigan. This situation is concerning and seems to leave more questions than answers, and more problems than solutions.
Reform is not the answer
The school reform office is scheduled to make a final decision within the next two months on whether closing some schools will be a viable solution or only create more problems for students. If they decide the latter, state law offers other solutions which can mean anything from turning the school into a charter school, or even allowing a CEO to step in and take over the schools’ academics.
It’s becoming very clear that the City of Detroit has no idea what to do about its school system, or how to stop it from failing. Instead of creating real solutions and fighting to ensure a future for the African youth, it would rather simply close all these schools. However these crises are to be expected when the city’s leaders are corrupt and only care about lining their own pockets.
There’s no money to pay teachers and update textbooks, but there is money to build a brand new stadium downtown. Meanwhile, the schools in white areas are not only well-staffed, well-funded and have up-to-date textbooks, but they also have an adequate number of computers and other advanced learning tools.
Gentrification is ethnic cleansing
The State is more concerned with making the Downtown Detroit area more appealing to the white population than it is in actually investing in the areas where actual citizens (83 percent of which are African) live. White people are slowly encroaching into areas of the city where you never used to see them. It’s becoming clearer that these school closings are just another step in gentrifying our city.
By closing schools and allowing blight to take over neighborhoods, the State ensures that more and more African people will be pushed out of their neighborhoods. After they get rid of us and move into our vacated homes, they’ll build better neighborhoods and better schools for the new, white occupants.
As a result of school closings, the police presence in the city is much higher. Since white people began moving in, the rent in some areas has risen drastically. Money that could have been invested into our schools was used to tear up half of downtown to build a tram, but our bus system barely functions.
Detroit public schools are run like prisons
This would never fly in any of the Grosse Pointe areas, St Claire Shores or any other predominantly white neighboring areas. DPS runs its schools like prisons: metal detectors appear at the front of each door and security guards carry walkie-talkies, handcuffs and pepper spray patrol the halls, ready to frisk students and perform random bag checks at will.
These are not learning environments. These “schools” are not places where children are taught, challenged to think and groomed into productive adults. Teachers, rather, when they bother to show up at all, groom African students for prison life. Through colonialism, these urban, predominately African schools are purposefully allowed to fail.
It’s time for the Black Community to take control of the situation. We should decide how our children learn, what they learn, and how to handle failing schools. Corporations should not be allowed to come in and use these schools as vehicles to produce capital; the future of our children is at stake.
This is why bringing the Uhuru Movement to Detroit is so important, and the theory of self-determination is no longer just an ideology, but a real goal. We cannot trust the State and its officials to uphold the best interests of the African. It is up to us to fix our communities and teach our children.
Black community control of the schools! Join InPDUM to struggle for freedom in our lifetime! Visit InPDUM.org!