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Detroit teacher: Students “understand how their voices have been silenced”

Jun 15, 2016

Detroit Public Schools could soon return under the control of an elected school board and become debt-free if Gov. Snyder signs the bailout package approved by Michigan senators last week. Reaction to the legislation has been mixed, and one of the district's veteran teachers is speaking up.

Asenath Jones is a world history teacher at Cass Technical High School. She told Stateside that DPS teachers watched the district’s debt accumulate firsthand.

“We watched our debt increase greatly when the state officially took us over,” Jones said, who has taught in Detroit for 19 years. “We had a surplus [and] we watched it dwindle down.”

Jones described the state’s role as an “absolute mismanagement of funds,” citing an increase in students for each teacher and the dismissal of aides for special-education students. Despite the odds, Jones believes that Detroit teachers have shown resilience.

“We’ve made lemonade out of the lemons that we were given. But it was not fair.”

When asked if her students understand the situation that DPS is going through, Jones said they are aware of how it affects their education. She added that her students can tell that nearby school districts are doing much better financially and academically and they don’t believe it’s fair.

“They’re understanding some things the hard way at a very young age,” she said. “And I think it’s making them more determined to succeed.”

Due to time constraints, we were not able to include Jones’ full interview with Stateside for broadcast. We’ve included additional content in the SoundCloud link below, where Jones talks about how her students view the district’s struggles.

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Asenath Jones is a world history teacher at Cass Technical High School. She has taught in Detroit for 19 years.

This segment was produced in collaboration with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. Support for State of Opportunity comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first.