The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Detroit Public Schools:
Manufacturing a crisis
– to create a crisis

Jan 24, 2005

Kenneth Burnley, the Detroit Public Schools CEO, has announced that the district will need to cut 340 million dollars from its budget in the next few years – and close 110 of its 255 school buildings. He says the schools are in a "crisis."

Some of the ideas actively being promoted to "fix" the "crisis" include turning the whole district into a charter school district, or breaking it up into a number of smaller districts – and turning those separate pieces into charter school districts.

In both cases, the public schools will be turned over to private interests to run on their own behalf – whether for profit or religious aims.

In 1999, talking about a "crisis" in the Detroit Public School system, then-governor John Engler and then-mayor Dennis Archer agreed to remove the old School Board and jointly appoint another one.

The CEO hired by the new board said the district was bloated with unnecessary costs. Talking about streamlining the schools' operation, they cut schools, cut teachers, cut staff, and cut funding for school needs.

At the same time, the state opened the door to charter schools and "schools of choice," forcing public school districts to spend time and money competing with each other for students.

Five years later, the situation in the Detroit schools is much worse. The cuts in the schools, combined with all the propaganda touting charter schools, only served to provoke a mass exodus of students from the district, taking millions of tax dollars with it, making the budget situation worse than it had ever been.

Student enrollment in the district is down from 200,000 in 1999, to 140,000 today. Burnley is now projecting it will drop to 100,000 by 2008.

If enrollment drops like that, it's only because the board continues to slash away at the schools, even while handing over still more money to charter schools.

Five years ago, the talk of a crisis in the Detroit Public Schools was aimed at justifying the beginnings of privatization. Everything that has been done since only deepened that crisis.

Today, with the situation many times worse, the final shoe is being dropped: to "save" the system, officials say, they will have to dismantle it completely.

What's being put on the table is the wholesale privatization of the Detroit Public Schools.

This is nothing less than a declaration of war on the children of Detroit.