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detroit public schools

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan’s emergency manager law has received considerable criticism in the wake of the Flint water crisis. The concept of the state moving in to take power away from local officials to fix a financial crisis is not new. In fact, Public Act 72, known as the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, was passed in 1990.

Back in the bad old final years of the Soviet Union, when the economy and the infrastructure were falling apart and the government was mostly non-responsive, there was a sour little joke that reminds me of Michigan today.

In the Soviet story, Stalin and Konstantin Chernenko, one of his increasingly ineffectual successors are going across Siberia on a train. Suddenly, it breaks down. There are, of course, no spare parts.

Anti-sickout bills move forward in Lansing

Feb 2, 2016
Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Bills meant to crack down on teacher “sickout” protests are moving forward in the Michigan Senate.

The bills would define the sickouts as illegal teacher strikes in state law. The protests have closed dozens of Detroit schools in recent weeks.

A legislative panel approved the legislation on Tuesday while adding more teeth to the bills. New language would temporarily block unions from representing teachers and collecting dues in districts where sickouts are happening.

Detroit Public Schools

The controversial emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools will step down at the end of this month, Gov. Snyder’s office announced Tuesday.

Snyder faced growing pressure to get rid of Darnell Earley.

Calls for Earley’s resignation as head of DPS reached a fever pitch in the past several weeks, as teachers staged sick-out protests over the district’s crumbling buildings and finances, and the Detroit Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit demanding his removal.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools says it has begun fixing violations found during city inspections.

Teachers with Detroit Public Schools held sickouts in recent weeks to call attention to the deplorable condition of many of the buildings.

"We're doing the best that we can with the resources that we have, and we are honestly committed to  working towards resolving the issues that are on the inspection reports from the city of Detroit," said DPS spokeswoman, Michelle Zdrodowski.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers start hearings this week on Gov. Snyder’s plan to prevent the collapse of the Detroit Public Schools.

Lansing’s discussions start as the city of Detroit released another round of safety and health inspections of some of the district’s crumbling school buildings this past weekend.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, with support from the American Federation of Teachers, and several parents filed a lawsuit Thursday against Detroit Public Schools and its state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley.

The suit is asking the court to compel DPS and Earley to repair all existing building code violations, and for the creation of an appropriately funded capital plan that will bring schools up to "21st century standards."

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

In this Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about why Flint residents are being charged a lot of money for water they can't drink. Flint residents aren't paying those bills, and the city's water utility says it might run out of money by the end of the year. Lessenberry also talks about the problems plaguing Detroit Public Schools. 


The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers, parents and students have been complaining their school buildings are falling apart.

Now, health and safety inspection reports from DPS schools are being posted online, and they're not pretty. 

In the first batch of 11 school inspections, officials found rodent and insect issues, mold, a gym that's completely closed because of water damage, broken glass, bathroom doors that don't close, and boilers that don't work. 

Judge's gavel
Joe Gratz / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Court of Claims is all over the news lately, with Detroit Public Schools’ attempt to establish a temporary restraining order to block teacher sick-outs and the class action lawsuits in Flint due to the water crisis.

But what is the Court of Claims?

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A judge has denied the Detroit Public Schools’ efforts to stop teacher sickouts.

The district says those sickouts amount to illegal strikes.

But Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens again declined to issue a restraining order today.

Stephens said the district needs to prove the sickouts are strikes. She also questioned whether the Court of Claims is the proper venue for the case.

But many DPS teachers say they have no other way to force action as the district spirals into decay and insolvency.

44 percent of Michigan 3rd graders tested proficient in English and Language Arts. The scores for African-American, latino and low-income students were even worse.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Several schools around the state closed Monday in response to threats made on social media over the weekend.

Four schools closed for the day, and one school has heightened security as a result.

University Prep Academy, University Prep Science and Math, Lake Orion High School, and Lincoln High School all closed Monday as a result of threats. Cass Technical High School in Detroit received a threat, but remained open as officials investigate.

via Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools is suing many of its own teachers over repeated sickout protests, and there’s an important court hearing in that fight Monday.

DPS maintains these repeated sickouts, which teachers have sporadically held to highlight serious problems in the district, amount to illegal strikes.

DPS officials are asking a Michigan Court of Claims judge to issue a preliminary injunction and order the teachers back to work.

Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the district’s request for a temporary restraining order last week.

No matter how bad you might have thought the state messed up Flint, the reality is worse. Yesterday, a flood of revelations made that shockingly clear.

Ten months ago, a consultant for the city recommended adding corrosion control chemicals to the water, because it was causing metal to leach out of the pipes. Apparently the governor, who is setting a new standard for clueless, never saw it, and Jerry Ambrose, then one of Flint’s revolving door emergency managers, ignored it.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has lost an initial bid to stop frustrated teachers from staging repeated sickout protests.

Angry about classroom conditions, low pay and Lansing’s inaction in the face of near-insolvency, DPS teachers staged their largest sickout yet Wednesday, closing 88 schools.

The district, headed by state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, went to the Michigan Court of Claims to get a restraining order the same day.

Judge Cynthia Stephens has now denied that initial request.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some parents and community members in southwest Detroit plan to file a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

That’s after the Detroit Public Schools removed bilingual office staff from several schools with predominantly Spanish-speaking parents last month.

“It’s a safety issue. It’s a civil rights issue,” said Maria Salinas, head of the group Congress of Communities. “This is the beginning of many people who will come out and fight. We shouldn’t have to fight.”

Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools wants to force teachers to stop ongoing “sickout” protests.

The district has asked the Michigan Court of Claims to stop the rolling protests that closed 88 Detroit schools Wednesday.

"DPS has requested the court's intervention in addressing the ongoing teacher sick outs that are plaguing the district,” spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski said in a statement, adding: “There will be no further comment until we receive direction from the court."

Kate Wells

Angelita Davis says she’s got 52 kids in her eighth-grade classroom at Palmer Park Preparatory Academy.

“How do you walk into a classroom with 52 kids? They’re packed in there like sardines," she says, shaking her head as she marches on a downtown Detroit sidewalk Wednesday with dozens of other protesters.  

"We can't do it anymore. We just can't."

Recently, the math teacher at Davis’ school had to move her class to the library. But not because of overcrowding. Because of rats in the classroom. "They ran the kids right out of the room," says one teacher. 

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

For weeks, Detroit teachers have been using rolling sickouts to help focus attention on the crushing challenges they face in the classroom, from dilapidated, dirty conditions to huge class sizes.

Today the sickout tactic ballooned to new heights: 88 out of the 100 Detroit public schools had to close. 

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Metro Detroit’s “big four” leaders got together for their annual public chat before the Detroit Economic Club at the North American International Auto Show Tuesday.

This year, two big topics dominated the conversation: the Flint water crisis, and the impending financial collapse of Detroit Public Schools.

Each of the leaders — Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan — said Gov. Snyder had mishandled the state’s response to Flint’s drinking water contamination.

michigan.gov

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address is tonight. He’s expected to discuss his long-term plans to resolve the water crisis in Flint.

Governor Snyder has taken a lot of heat over the state’s role in creating the water problems in Flint and for the response to the crisis.

Cass Tech Alumni Association

As a counselor at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Monica Jones knows this hasn't been the happiest couple of weeks at Detroit Public Schools. 

Between teacher sickouts to draw attention to unsustainable teaching and learning conditions, more news about just how terrible the district's finances are, and scathing criticism from Lansing aimed at DPS teachers, "there's like an ugly air, like an ugly funk going on," Jones says. “So we wanted to do something positive. There’s too much negativity out there, and all that negativity weighs you down.” 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents say they’re angry about conditions in the city’s schools — and ready to do something about it.

Dozens of them packed a meeting led by the Detroit Parent Network Thursday night.

Over the past few weeks, Detroit Public Schools have been facing sick-outs from teachers protesting school conditions, pay, and Governor Snyder’s proposed plan to address the district’s massive debt.

I spoke to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants about the situation at DPS and whether there is a clear path forward.

Mayor Mike Duggan toured some Detroit schools and says the conditions are a mixed bag.

Bills to restructure Detroit K-12 finally proposed

Jan 14, 2016
44 percent of Michigan 3rd graders tested proficient in English and Language Arts. The scores for African-American, latino and low-income students were even worse.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Legislation to overhaul Detroit's troubled school district has finally been introduced, more than eight months after Gov. Rick Snyder first proposed the restructuring.

44 percent of Michigan 3rd graders tested proficient in English and Language Arts. The scores for African-American, latino and low-income students were even worse.
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A coalition of business and community leaders continues to push for reform and repair of Detroit's education system.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children's co-chairs held a press conference today to discuss the current state of the Detroit education landscape, and to renew a call for action to lawmakers.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

 

State schools superintendent Brian Whiston says he has set up a meeting for this Friday in Detroit with Darnell Earley, the state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools.

Whiston said the point of the meeting is to discuss concerns he's heard from the Detroit teachers' union about health and safety conditions in school buildings.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about the Flint water crisis: how Flint is getting help at the federal level, when Governor Snyder first knew about the water problem and how this crisis has hurt him politically. Lessenberry also talks about why teachers at the Detroit Public Schools are protesting many issues by staging "sickouts."


Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Rick Snyder is adding his voice to those calling for an end to teacher “sickout” protests in the state’s largest school district.

Dozens of Detroit public school buildings have closed this week with teachers staying home, and several more have been forced to close in recent weeks.

Snyder hopes teachers will find other ways to protest state control of Michigan’s largest district, health and safety issues in classrooms, and other problems. He says there are other avenues to call attention to those issues that don’t hurt students.

Well, the governor is finally paying attention to the water scandal in Flint, and there seems to be general recognition that the state really screwed up. Even Rick Snyder said as much yesterday, though in convoluted language.

Children were poisoned because of actions taken by state government, and finally, belatedly, there’s an effort to do something about it.

But children are being irreversibly harmed in Detroit, too, and we’re not willing to do anything about it. I’m talking about the more than forty thousand kids who are still enrolled in the Detroit Public Schools. This time, this is not the governor’s fault.

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