The physical conditions of the traditional Detroit public schools are appalling and city teachers are right to make a stink about it. Mold, warped floors, cold buildings in winter, leaky roofs, rodents - does that sound like a combination for inspiring kids to learn?
Maybe in Dickens, but not in the real world.
Yet, the forgotten part of "conditions" is bound up in academics. Detroit lost a huge number of students when the economy soured and jobs disappeared, but some parents left because of they felt their children weren't getting a proper education. Even today, as many switch to charter schools, they mention the quality of academics as the reason.
An article in the Chicago Tribune nationalizes the misery of DPS, going through the financial forensics once again, but it's the voice of a parent in the story we should hear.
This passage is telling:
To deal with the declining enrollment, the school system has eliminated almost 10,000 jobs since 2005 and closed more than 150 schools, helping reduce expenses by $800 million, according to the emergency manager's office. There are some signs of stabilization: Enrollment was down by just 1.7 percent in the current year, the smallest drop in at least a decade, according to the district.
More than 60 schools were closed Monday because teachers called out sick during the protest over derelict conditions. By Wednesday, the number of closings dropped to at least five, according to the Associated Press.
The teachers are upset because of the worsening school conditions, including broken heaters, rodents, cracked ceilings and mold, said Margaret Weertz, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Federation of Teachers. She said the protest wasn't condoned or organized by the union.
"The frustration level is very, very high," Weertz said.
Irving Bailey, 51, felt it years ago. He pulled his 9th grade daughter out of John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy, worried about a lack of academic standards, and enrolled her in the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter. Now she attends Central Michigan University.
"Her Detroit school was crowded and I didn't feel like it was preparing her for college," said Bailey. "It's not getting better in the Detroit schools. It's getting worse."