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United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles said Friday he thinks Gov. Rick Snyder should face legal action over the state’s handling of Detroit Public Schools, and that the local community needs to take control to fix its children’s substandard learning conditions.

Settles, head of the UAW-Ford Department, called on the community to fix schools that he said “are built like prisons” because children in Detroit are at a disadvantage against children across the state and country.

DPS, which has been run by a series of state-appointed emergency managers since March 2009, is struggling with millions of dollars in debt, declining enrollment and health and safety violations in many of its school buildings. Officials have warned the district could run out of money by April.

“This emergency manager, everything the governor and past governor came in to do, I’m dead set against it,” Settles said at a luncheon for the Detroit chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“I would love for them to come and send their kids to the same schools. ... Snyder and everybody else should become accountable; they should try him. In the interim — I want to fight for that — but I want to fight and do something for these kids as we speak now, because their conditions are not getting any better.”

In recent years, the UAW-Ford Department has donated millions of dollars to DPS for programming, structural and recreational improvements.

Recently, the organization donated $400,000 to Northwestern High School to refurbish its gymnasium. It replaced the gym’s buckled floor, installed new basketball rims and new bleachers, refurbished the pool and added a new weight room and locker rooms.

UAW-Ford this past week repaired and refurbished old instruments at Sampson Webber Middle School, and has painted lockers, installed light bulbs and performed other basic upgrades at schools such as Marcus Garvey Academy and Osborn High School.

“We’re going to take these schools, we’re going to paint the lockers, we’re going to do everything we can possibly do to make them better,” Settles said. “I think citizens ought to take control of it themselves. Pick a school, pick a classroom. Pick something besides complaining.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

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