The Spark

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

The Detroit Public Schools’ Grapes of Wrath

Apr 16, 2007

One week after bowing to the pressure of hundreds of protestors and voting to keep schools open, the Detroit Board of Education voted again – this time to close 34 public schools.

The vote was taken quickly, before the audience realized what was happening, and the meeting was adjourned before the public comment period was allowed to take place. This time the crowd of protestors was smaller.

One week after this vote to close 34 schools, the Board met again and voted to extend the contract of their new superintendent to five years and to raise her pay to $280,000 a year – though she won’t even start in her position until July 1st!

School Board members say they need to pay well to attract a quality individual to the district and to allow her time to make a difference.

They need to pay well to attract quality people? How true that is – for everyone! It’s true for ALL those who make a difference in students’ lives: their teachers, surely, but also the workers who keep up the school buildings, who work in the school offices, and in the cafeterias. All of these workers make a much more direct impact on students’ lives than top administrators, and should be paid well, and given the resources to do their jobs well.

Instead, everyone below administrators is treated like interchangeable parts, made to do more and more work for less and less pay, and given fewer materials in crumbling schools to do their jobs.

And now they’ll crowd students into fewer schools, forcing teachers to try to give a quality education to more students at a time.

The School Board and its apparatus clearly do not care about giving a quality education to the children of Detroit. They simply see the district as a way to make money for their friends, and they see the superintendent as the person who will help them do that.

Two years ago the school board closed 30 schools in the district. Soon a number of them were reopened – as charter schools, where hucksters make money while the students receive an inferior education. The schools were a gift from the Board to those charter school administrators.

Now, this is a new school board – and they’re doing the same thing: gutting the school district, to line the pockets of their friends.

The school board showed how rotten they are at the meeting where they decided to close the 34 schools: they had a woman arrested and charged with disorderly conduct – for throwing a grape! The woman, Agnes Hitchcock, is a longtime activist in the Detroit community. The school board president, Jimmy Womack, called her a “social terrorist” – for throwing a grape!

If this school board has such a thin skin, it’s because the fruit of their actions is so clearly rotten.