The Spark

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

The Continued Gutting of Detroit Public Schools

Jul 7, 2014

The Emergency Financial Dictator for the Detroit Public Schools has announced new rules allowing for a class size of 43 students in sixth through twelfth grade.

Imagine trying to organize the work in a classroom of 43 sixth-graders, all with different needs and capacities and problems!

It shows that public officials have abandoned all pretense of providing an education to young people in the city. In fact, they did long ago.

More than half of Detroit students have already been pushed out of the public school system in the last ten years. Many left because of class sizes going up. Others left because their schools closed – and the DPS debt plan calls for closing another 26 schools in 2015. Others left because the school system has been so squeezed of resources. But what kind of alternative choice did they have?

Some were driven into the Education Achievement Authority. The EAA was created by the governor, who handed over some of the worst performing schools to officials appointed by the state. It was a designed disaster from the beginning, parking students in front of computers with totally green teachers. No surprise, the students in the EAA did even worse on achievement tests than they had in the public schools. The EAA was also a huge money suck away from schools, a chunk of it going to officials: they spent $178,000 just flying around the country to attend “conferences”; the head of the EAA racked up a $10,000 bill just for gas for his limo!

Some students went to charters. The charters also perform worse than the public schools – even on those stupid test scores the state is trying to impose. In the traditional schools in high poverty areas, 47% of students were proficient in reading in the 2013-2014 school year, compared to only 42% at charters.

This should be no surprise. Charters spend less on the classroom, and more on buildings and profit for their owners. They have less experienced teachers, who are paid less. They are also almost completely unregulated in Michigan, meaning that some of the worst charter school operators have been allowed to expand at the expense of the traditional schools. Many of the worst are openly run for profit, meaning their bottom line is to make money for their owners, not to educate students.

Detroit is a testing ground for the nationwide attack on public education, driven by some of the richest billionaires in the country. Their plan is clear: Starve the public schools of resources. Then use the poor state of the public schools as an excuse to push charters and other steps toward privatization like the EAA. Finally, transform public education into a privatized system that funnels profits to private operators, and provides a decent education only to those who can either afford to live in an area that still has public schools, or to send their kids to private school.

Every child should have the right to an excellent education. The solution isn’t so difficult: provide poor and working class children with the kind of education the rich already get, with additional services to deal with all the problems of poverty. All it would take is money. But this capitalist class – greedily trying to put its hands on ever more money – won’t spend it on workers’ children.