Education
3:07 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Dan Rather's report on Detroit schools airs tonight

Detroit public schools face many challenges, and Dan Rather wants you to know how bad it is.

HDNet, a cable and satellite television channel aimed at "men's interests", will air "Dan Rather Reports: A National Disgrace" tonight at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.).

Here's a clip from the program:

HDNet says the program is "full of heartbreaking images: children sitting in class for days without a teacher; a principal addressing graduating seniors with stories of the violence they’ve seen; and abandoned schools left to rot in an increasingly empty city."

Dan Rather spoke with Paul W. Smith on WJR this morning. He told Smith that he hopes people learn that the nation's public education system needs to be changed:

"What I hope the takeaway will be is that we all, not just people in Detroit, we all should be ashamed of what's happening to our schools and we can change it. But we can't change it on the present course where all decisions are top down instead of being bottom up."

Rather said it was too early to tell whether the changes being made by Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Governor Rick Snyder will help.

He cited corruption as a major problem in the Detroit Public School system:

"I don't think this comes as bulletin news to many people in Detroit.  But somebody is stealing large sums of money from the Detroit school system. Well over $40 million went out over a short period of time - where it went, nobody can say."

Rather said while they reported on the schools they found a "warehouse full of motorcycles" and discovered students who were going without text books for weeks and months. Rather said, "there's been a lot of stealing going on and that needs to stop."

Fox News in Detroit showed clips of the special to Detroit School Board President Anthony Adams. Adams said, "I consider it ... a piece that really bashes the city, bashes the district, doesn't really talk about the accomplishments and the great strides that we've made."

From Fox News in Detroit:

Adams argues the worst years for Detroit Public Schools happened when the state took over the district, replacing the elected school board with appointees and little oversight.  That's when, he says, the schools went into a tailspin.

"Former Governor Engler, 1999 state takeover, the district had a surplus, a hundred million dollars.  Our test scores were increasing," he told us.  "Made most decisions really without any type of public input, and so they take these stories and juxtapose them against an elected board, which really had nothing to do with those situations that occurred in the past of this district."