Detroit schools are worse than you can possibly imagine
There are several key point in this piece: Detroit students get more money than any public school kids in Michigan, but almost none of the money is spent on them; school contracts get awarded to friends and relatives and wholly ignored; and no one gives a damn about Detroit kids.
With an aging infrastructure built for twice the existing population, the school district has to shut down and vacate school buildings every year. In 2007, the school board awarded a contract for securing, cleaning and removing supplies from closed schools to a Philadelphia-based company with ties to school board members. However, the work at many closed schools was simply never done. As with any buildings left unsecured in Detroit, thieves looking for metal immediately broke in to steal copper pipes and other valuables. These “scrappers” are like locusts. In 2008, I went into several schools closed the previous year to find buildings stripped of metal but left with libraries full of books, computer labs upturned, art classrooms full of supplies, and administration offices filled with confidential and sensitive student records.
It goes without saying that the city’s schools are in a bad way. Only recently, a principal at one Detroit public school asked parents to send toilet paper and light bulbs to school with their children because the district could no longer provide those necessities. Most students are not allowed to bring textbooks home, if their school has textbooks at all. The Detroit Public Schools are allotted more tax dollars per pupil than any other district in the state, and yet none of the money actually reaches those students or their teachers. It disappears in a morass of bureaucratic waste and corruption.
People tend to have a visceral reaction to the sight of books piled ten feet high and left to rot in a windowless warehouse or strewn about a classroom floor. They seem to have more sympathy for books than for the children who’ll never have the chance to use them. Half of Detroiters cannot even read. Unemployment is above 20 percent and our streets are filled with hopeless people. When I see schools left like this, I know exactly what waits for many of these kids. I see it every day on the streets.
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*UPDATE*: A faithful Mojonaut wrote in with some links, indicating that it seems unlikely that DPS has the highest per-pupil allotment in the state. Check it out.