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December 06, 2012

UPDATE: VICE Magazine and Per-pupil Spending in Detroit Public Schools

In response to this post (Poor Mojo's Newswire: Detroit schools...

December 05, 2012

Inside Detroit's oldest, coldest, loneliest dive bar

Last days - Culture - Detroit Metro Times
There's not a single customer in the bar tonight. Just like most of last night. Just like most nights before that. Steve Francis, the bar's owner, sits at a table by the wall, huddled inside his wool sweater, with a blanket covering his lap. "Cold," he says, simply. "Costs too much to heat." It's Friday night at Steve's Place, one of the oldest, loneliest dive bars in Detroit. It manages to be both legendary and obscure, a place that most people have heard of but not many visit, except those loyal few who check in now and then to see if its elderly proprietors are still improbably in place behind the bar. "Nobody in here," Steve says, meaning not just tonight but always. "Sometimes there are birthday parties, the bachelor parties once in a while. Occasionally, a few lovers come in here. But now, very bad. No business." It's dead quiet apart from the little television above the bar and the sounds of the night seeping in from outside — the loud clang when a car drives over the thick metal sheets covering potholes in the street, the clipped words of stray conversations among people passing by, the shouts of a riled homeless man echoing among the tall buildings. The dim light in the room comes from small sources — the flickering television, the single light bulb inside a frosted globe hanging from the ceiling, the soft glow behind the old bar's liquor bottles and the strand of colorful, year-round Christmas lights strung along a wall. Steve and Sophie, his wife of 50 years, are the bar's only employees. Both are in their 80s, though Steve says he's not even sure how old he is exactly, because he has no birth certificate. The frail couple takes turns working; one naps in the apartment upstairs while the other one works the bar, from a little before the lunch hour to 2 a.m. or later, every single day of the year but Christmas.

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. School's Out Forever | VICE
In the last half-century, Detroit lost more than half its population. Those leaving the city were mostly white people who fled to the suburbs. As a result, the tax base was destroyed and the black population that remains has had to govern a 139-square-mile city with limited resources. 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. . . .
*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.