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As Public Schools Crumble: Detroit School Closings; 60-Student Classes Loom

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As Public Schools Crumble:

Detroit School Closings; 60-Student Classes Loom

When decades ago I said nothing good can come of government schools I couldn’t have envisioned today. Over his mother’s protests, a California school sent a six year-old to a hospital for a 72-hour psychiatric hold (his military father was just deployed overseas and he didn’t want to go to school that day). In Colorado, a nine year-old was taken out of school in handcuffs, booked, fingerprinted and put in a cell for drawing the picture his therapist told him to do to stay calm and not disrupt his class with his Attention Deficit Disorder. A second state’s elected representatives shirk their duty. With pay. Doctors lie. Assuming with pay. Teachers shirk their duty. With pay, if they caught up with a lying doctor. A nine year-old went home and told her mother she got to pick a sign and march, though she was clueless as to why. Maine’s new Commissioner of Education Steve Bowen is going to work hard to replace government schools with virtual learning, a la Florida. And, as usual, all of it is “for the children.”

Pencil school closingsDetroit School Closings

But perhaps nothing summarizes the collapse of government schooling as well as Detroit. (See also “Massive Teacher Layoffs in California Possible; 25% of Detroit Schools Shutting Down.”) From DetroitNews.com:

Swift and severe changes are coming to Detroit Public Schools.

State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb to immediately implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district’s books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

Bobb is the Detroit Public School District’s emergency financial manager. (If anyone should be running away, I’d think it would be Bobb.) He will recommend which schools should be closed, and figure out layoffs to be announced in April. Actually, Bobb submitted his deficit elimination plan in January, and will leave the post at the end of June.

“I believe the district can work its way out of these challenges,” Bobb said. “It will take some time. I am firm believer we have to continue to make the deep cuts, and they are going to be painful. In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat.”

Bobb said he continues to work on an alternative plan — one similar to a General Motors-style restructuring — but has yet to release details or announce a sponsor for such a bill.

“Whatever comes out of the transition plan and whatever my new thinking is will be a part of that,” he said.

At least one person is calling the emergency condition the result of mismanagement.

Patrick Anderson, founder of the Anderson Economic Group, a Lansing-based economic consulting group, said DPS has no choice but to change its business model — dramatically.

“If this was a businesses entity, it would be in perilous straits and probably headed to bankruptcy,” he said. “When 50 percent of your customers leave and a substantial amount of revenue goes toward paying debt, the survival of your enterprise is in doubt.”

Anderson said he doesn’t fault lenders for having a lack of faith in DPS, given its deep history of fiscal mismanagement. “The question is, does the state want to indicate it will get itself further on the hook for a unit of local government that has mismanaged itself financially?” he said.

School Closings and Loss of Hope

The optimistic spin typically attached to school closings stories is also missing in action now. And it looks like at least one state Senator sees the writing on the wall, and would like to pun to Bobb:

Last week, state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, proposed a bill that would give the emergency financial manager the power to cancel government or teacher union contracts. DPS spends nearly two-thirds of its budget on personnel costs, or $677 million a year.

State Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, chairman of the joint House and Senate Education Committee, said there are concerns about the state taking on the district’s liability.

“I don’t feel the taxpayers of Michigan are willing to become liable for that money with all the structural and institutional problems that exist,” Scott said.

“We need a long-term solution for public schools for Detroit and the state,” he said. “We just don’t have the solution right now.”

I give Scott points for the refreshing honesty in the statement, “We just don’t have the solution right now.” Yet I realize that in the meantime, there are real children in real families who are going to feel the real effects of actions required by districts that have been spending multiple hundreds of millions of dollars each year on personnel-related costs.
School budgets and school closings are merely the tip of the iceberg. Due to events in the Middle East, your family will soon pay $4-$6 for a gallon of gas. Due to food shortages, a great portion of your family budget will be devoted to life-sustaining food. Rising costs will create greater unemployment. There will be even less tax money for government schools.
You can spare your family some or all of the negative consequences of broken school budgets and the life-altering price increases by designing your own lives via the freedom of homeschooling. (Read The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start.) In this way school closings won’t interrupt your child’s very important education, and you can be sure that what’s happening really is “for the children.”
AT PRESS TIME: Education Week just posted a blog report with additional information on Detroit Public Schools and school closings.


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2 Responses to “As Public Schools Crumble: Detroit School Closings; 60-Student Classes Loom”

  1. Mother Mary says:

    I have long said we are seeing the collapse of the public ed system, but I never would have thought it would look like this.

    I wonder how long it will be before those who are making excuses and still laboring under the foolish assumption that 'we can save this thing' will finally see what is really happening.

    good article, Linda.

  2. I know…it's just crazy. There won't be a smooth transition to the money-saving online education that many are embracing. Thanks for the compliment; it means a lot coming from you, Mother Mary.

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