It seems like everyone is talking about education lately. From the Oscar-nominated documentary, “Waiting For Superman,” to the protests by teachers in Wisconsin, educating our kids seem to be front and center these days.
Yesterday, state education officials in Michigan ordered the city of Detroit to balance the school district’s budget shortfall by closing half of its schools.
As expected, closing the schools will have dire effects on the city’s students (who are mostly low-income and black). Not only would it shrink the number of schools in the city to just 72 to service approximately 60,000 students, but it would also balloon class sizes to 60 students in high school classrooms. Currently, the district has nearly 74,000 students, but many are expected to flee do to increasing class sizes and neighborhood school closures.
Detroit Public Schools (DPS) have been under pressure lately. DPS graduates only 32% of its students, which is well below the national average of 70%, and has had to install an emergency financial manager due to continued mismanagement of funds. The district is struggling to close a $327 million budget deficit, and hopes shuttering its schools will help them close the gap.
Although emergency financial manager Robert Bobb doesn’t think closing cities schools will help fix the budget shortage because it will drive students away and result in less per pupil funding, he is still moving forward with the state’s plan.
“I believe the district can work its way out of these challenges,” Bobb told The Detroit News. “It will take some time. I am firm believer we have to continue to make the deep cuts, and they are going to be painful. In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat.”
While state officials are looking to close schools in order to meet budget constraints, I wonder who is looking out for the kids? Detroit’s students—who are mostly African-American— will be forced to sit in cramped classrooms, while teachers struggle to deliver high-quality instruction with even fewer resources. Hearing that schools are closing because the state lacks money makes me think that the system is rigged to make minority and lower-income students permanent members of the underclass.