Conn: State control has only hurt DPS
Detroit teachers took the bold step earlier this year in electing to new leadership to head the Detroit Federation of Teachers and are now gearing up to lead the fight to defend public education in Detroit. For more then a decade, the state has controlled Detroit Public Schools, and conditions have never been worse. Since the state takeover in 1999, we have witnessed the dismantling of our district, with over 200 school closings, three quarters of our teachers gone, stagnant wages, class sizes of 50-plus students, and a deficit created into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Within two weeks of the election, Detroit teachers held their first mass membership meeting in years in which we passed a series of resolutions, including the demand that the state cancel the debt they created, the reintegration of the Education Achievement Authority back into Detroit Public Schools, the removal of the emergency manager and restoration of the elected school board, and an end to excessive standardized testing. We have launched a series of public pickets at schools to expose the oppressive and worsening conditions of the schools and attempted cover-up by administrators carrying out the orders of Snyder and the EM.
We stand firmly opposed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent power grab over the state board of education to set up the further expansion of the failed EAA, and giving away $50,000 to former Emergency Manager Jack Martin that should have gone to lowering class sizes and purchasing desperately needed books for DPS students. Snyder’s failed educational policies have done irreparable harm to the children we have dedicated our lives to teaching and he has awoken a sleeping giant.
We are now preparing for a second mass membership meeting in which we will plan further action to stop Gov. Snyder from completely destroying the educational opportunities of our students, and win support for our positive program to create a fully integrated, quality public school system in which the young people of Detroit are able to grow and develop to their full potential.
I am asking the people of Detroit and the state of Michigan to join us in this historic civil rights fight to defend one of the most progressive American gains which was won by this nation’s first civil rights movement, a quality public education for all youth and at last make real the promise of Brown v. Board of Education.
Steve Conn is president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers and a member of the national teachers caucus Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary.