Symptomatic of what is occurring in education across the nation, Detroit Public Schools are deep in debt.
Detroit, though, is somewhat unique in that they have in place an autocratic and unilateral leader appointed by the Governor of Michigan. They have an Emergency Manager, a person appointed at the governor’s behest to alleviate a financial situation that has been deemed by such governor to be an “emergency.”
In Detroit Public Schools, this has led to the marginalization of a perfectly capable and democratically elected school board. It has promoted the market fundamentalists’ premier value of economic efficiency over democracy, and it has done so at the expense of the economic health of the district, the academics of the students affected, and the community’s agency as expressed via the accountability of a democratically elected school board. It is no small thing to again point out the irony of the fact that Emergency Management has been installed at the expense of the district’s financial viability. (For more on this sordid history, please read Bill Wylie-Kellerman’s excellent account.)
So what is the governor going to do now with this mess he has exacerbated? According to The Detroit News, “Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is exploring ways to link a change in governance of public education in Detroit with ‘financial relief’ for the debt-ridden and cash-strapped Detroit Public Schools.”
Hmm..little mention of here of the structural conditions that led to such a situation.
No mention of the damning, incomplete, and false narrative of “failing schools.”
Although there are some hints if you read between the lines.
Since DPS is managed by its fourth emergency manager in six years, the issue of giving the district some financial breathing room looms large as the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren tries to craft a new school reform plan for Snyder to pursue in the Legislature.
See, it seems that there is a glimmer of understanding that an Emergency Manager- the fourth in six years- has simply not worked. The solution? “…a new school reform plan for Snyder to pursue in the Legislature.”
Again, if you read between the lines you will note who is not able to pursue anything in the legislature -the people of Detroit whose children are affected. You see, their voices have been silenced.
More hints of what might be to come?
Snyder wants the plan before spring so he can pursue potential legislative changes before the next school year, Walsh said.
Walsh, a Livonia Republican, was term-limited from the House last year and joined Snyder’s staff in January. He since has worked closely on Detroit and urban education reform issues with Paul Pastorek, a former Louisiana schools chief credited with turning around the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Last summer, the Los Angeles-based Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which has invested heavily in the EAA schools, sent Pastorek to Michigan to assist Snyder’s office in studying education reform in Detroit.
The 36-member coalition is exploring reforms that include common enrollment and the creation of a new commission that could have governance power over all DPS…
So what is this really about? In order to learn, we need to follow the bread crumb trail ( in this particular nightmare that means “money”) to New Orleans. The Broad Foundation, whose marketing brand reads, “Entrepreneurship for the public good in education,” a sentence whose inherent contradiction is mind-boggling, has funded Paul Pastorek as an advisor to the Michigan Governor as he looks for a system that he can use to, “ pursue potential legislative changes before the next school year.”
As the governor wrings his hands about the debt DPS is incurring.
Let’s see- the creation of massive financial insecurity that allows for radical structural changes which will then allow for corporate profit at the expense of democracy and local communities? Yes, the Shock Doctrine!
To those familiar with the history of public schooling in New Orleans it will sound all too familiar. (Thank you Paul Pastorek.)
And for those not familiar, please rapidly learn about the NOLA history, as it’s coming to a school near you.
As a public service I offer the video below. (From New Orleans Education Equity.)
And as a succinct encouragement to view, I offer this quote from the video:
“A lot of money has come into New Orleans to open up new schools. That actually incentivizes school failure. The more schools fail, the more money certain organizations get to open new schools….closing schools simply gets the money changing hands again.”
It’s easy to predict that a lot more money will be soon be changing hands again in Michigan.