Detroit teachers rally against Snyder's school plans

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit Federation of Teachers president Steve Conn speaks to those rallying Tuesday in Detroit against Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan for the district.

Detroit — In advance of Gov. Rick Snyder's announcement this week of his plan to overhaul Detroit schools, the Detroit Federation of Teachers rallied late Tuesday afternoon in front of the state of Michigan offices in Cadillac Place.

DFT president Steve Conn said in a release that the protest is against the governor's efforts to expand charters and the Education Achievement Authority in Detroit, and against "all the destruction that 15 years of state mismanagement has brought Detroit Public Schools."

The teachers union, which has 4,000 members, also plans to rally in Lansing Thursday, the day Snyder will announce his plan.

The Detroit News reported last week that Snyder was considering splitting DPS into two districts: one that would educate 47,000 students under a new structure, and one that would use DPS's 18-mill non-homestead levy to pay off the district's debt. The "new district" would have a board named by Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Also last week, DFT vice president Ivy Bailey sent members an email saying the governor wants to set up a new district that would keep current employees, labor contracts and participation in the state pension plan.

Last month, a coalition of community leaders proposed a plan for transforming Detroit's splintered education system. It included returning DPS from state oversight to school board control, moving EAA schools back into the district and creating a commission appointed by Duggan to approve closing and opening all city schools.

Conn and his supporters oppose the coalition's report and the other options Snyder is considering.

"It's time for the EAA schools to be returned to DPS, and for DPS be returned to a fully empowered elected school board," said Conn. "We completely reject any notion of a commission appointed by the governor or mayor having authority over the elected school board. Clearly the plan is to have the commission close more public schools and open more charters."

He said the union will continue to mobilize members, as well as students, parents and the community "in defense of public education, as the only possible foundation for rebuilding and developing Detroit, and achieving equality and opportunity for the young people of this city."

Conn said teachers demand improvements in DPS, including class-size reduction; competitive teachers' salaries; more books and supplies; art, music, gym for all students; daily lesson preparation periods; more support staff, such as social workers, hearing/speech therapists and bilingual instructors; a reduction in standardized testing, and teacher evaluations and placements completed before summer.

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