Sunday, September 24, 2006

DPS Facing Crisis in Enrollment: Teachers Blamed Despite Deficit Resulting From State Takeover

PANW Editor's Note: Announcements last week about the drop in enrollment in the Detroit Public Schools have notably ignored the root causes of the crisis in the system. A deliberate effort to destroy public education in the United States by corporate-backed rightist political elites who have created and promoted alternative charter and private schools that utilize public taxpayer monies, are designed to eliminate collective bargaining rights for educators.

Consequently, when members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers demanded a decent contract, the business-oriented Board executives sought to break the will of the union so that this organization would be weakened if not cripled.

In Michigan there is a tremendous unequal funding system for public education. Schools in wealthier suburban districts get far more in allocations per student than do cities like Detroit, Pontiac and Flint where the majority of the students are African-Americans and other nationally oppressed groups. In addition, a failed state takeover of the Detroit Public Schools between 1999-2005, drove the system into virtual bankruptcy through the gross mismanagement by conservative republican interests who then turned the district back over to the city after the funds were wasted and tens of thousands of students had fled the system.

This crisis in education is not unique to Detroit. The Education Bill of 2001, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, has done more to ruin school systems in urban areas than anything previously designed by the executive and legislative branches of the United States Government.

Add to this a drastically declining population in the city of Detroit resulting from high unemployment and poverty rates where the impact of de-industrialization and outsourcing have brought about the loss of approximately 250,000 jobs over the last five years.

Only when teachers, parents, students and community organizations take control of the management and direction of urban school districts will there be a reversal of the present decline in the system. Charter schools, despite a few exceptions, have proven to be an overall failure with many of them having achievements rates far more abysmal than the deficit-ridden public school districts. It is quite obvious that the ruling class in the United States does not want an educated population and prefers to channel large numbers of poor, working class and oppressed youth into low-wage service jobs, prisons and criminal activity.

Abayomi Azikiwe

Officials: Detroit may have lost 25,000 students during strike

September 21, 2006

DETROIT (AP) -- School officials are pleading with parents to return their children to Detroit Public Schools after projections showed the district may have lost 25,000 students during a 16-day teachers' strike.

If that forecast holds, the financially troubled district would lose $190 million in state aid. The statewide student count day, which is used to determine the amount of per-pupil funding districts receive from the state, is Wednesday.

The state has denied the district's request for a delay in counting students.

"I call on those of you who left us during the strike to come home to DPS," Superintendent William Coleman said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. The district plans to call each parent or guardian and send letters to their households asking them to enroll their children by Wednesday.

The district had anticipated losing about 9,300 of its 129,000 students this school year.

The strike began Aug. 28 after Detroit Federation of Teachers members rejected a contract that sought to cut their pay by 5.5 percent over two years. The district argued it needed $88 million in concessions from its unionized professionals to help erase a $105 million deficit.

The two sides finally agreed on a three-year contract that freezes pay this school year and then raises it by 1 percent in 2007-08 and 2.5 percent in 2008-09. Next year's raise would be the first for DFT members since 2003.

The start of school was delayed by seven days.

District officials said throughout the strike that it could lead to more parents taking their children out of Detroit schools and sending them to private or charter schools or to other districts.

Messages seeking reaction to the district's enrollment projections were left with DFT officials.

Parents sign kids up for Detroit Public Schools

September 24, 2006

Edward Smith is just what the Detroit Public Schools has been hoping for.

The Detroit dad enrolled his three daughters -- Tearra, Paige and Sky Smith -- in the school system on Saturday. He was among a steady stream of parents who filed into the district's Welcome Center to register students or request a switch in schools.

The Smiths weren't transferring from a nearby district, nor were they forced out of DPS by the 16-day teachers' strike. Rather, the family recently moved back to Michigan from Mississippi.

"We wanted to come back home," Smith said.

His kids couldn't be happier.

"I'm tired of sitting at home," said Tearra, 16, an 11th-grader who will attend King High School. Paige, 14, a seventh-grader who will attend Miller Middle School, was even excited about the hard stuff. "I'm ready for some homework," she said.

DPS officials are hitting the airwaves, streets and churches this weekend in search of an estimated 25,000 kids who may have left the district during the strike. The district had planned for and based its budget on losing about 9,300 students this year and officials are hoping to stay at that number, district spokesman Lekan Oguntoyinbo said Saturday.

A loss of 25,000 students would cost the district about $190 million in state aid. The district would not say how many students have been registered since the expanded effort started Friday to get the kids back before the statewide student count day on Wednesday.

Janet Payne of Detroit was eager to get her niece, Bresha Griggs, 14, back in the Detroit Public Schools after spending a year at the Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy in Detroit.

"I just didn't think the charter school was for her," Payne said.

The Welcome Center is not open today. Students can be enrolled at any DPS school Monday through Wednesday.

Contact KATHLEEN GRAY at 313-223-4407 or

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