Apr 30, 2007
About 300 students from Northern High School in Detroit walked out of school April 16 and marched to the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) headquarters to protest its planned closing. It was reported that students at Murray-Wright High School walked out as well.
Northern, Murray-Wright and 32 other schools are slated to be closed at the end of this school year – supposedly to save money for a school district awash in debt.
If the District’s awash in debt, it’s because officials gave its money away. The headquarters the students walked to was the district’s new headquarters. It had sold its old headquarters building and four others in 2001 for nine million dollars. In 2002, it bought five floors of the downtown Fisher Building for 34 million dollars from the Farbman Group, a real estate developer – four million more than Farbman had paid to buy the whole building, plus one other, just a year before!
On top of that, the District pays two million dollars every year to rent more office space from Farbman in nearby buildings. It’s a total loss of 48 million dollars to the schools.
That move was a complete gift to the Farbman Group. And it’s only the most blatant example of how corporate vultures have been ripping the Detroit Public Schools to shreds in recent years – all with the help of the Detroit School Board and city officials.
In comparison, the closing of all 34 schools will save the DPS only 16.8 million dollars – a third of what they gave away in just this one real estate boondoggle. All while forcing thousands of students to travel to different schools, and leaving big chunks of the city with no public school coverage.
These closings will end up as another gift – to charter schools and other groups, who will receive the buildings for next to nothing. It’s already happened before, with other buildings the DPS has closed.
The students from Northern High School were absolutely right to protest. They should keep doing it. And they should be joined by students, parents, employees and residents all over Detroit.