by Ayobunmi Bandele
The State of Michigan has been trying for some time now to reform its public schools in the majority African city of Detroit, they say in an effort to boost academic performance. With the intervention of Trump’s Education Secretary and billionaire heiress Betsy Devos, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has been on the decline for the past 20 years; with an increase in charter schools and push out of African students from DPS district.
In 2016, The DPS district was split in two with $200 million dollars approved to fund it, despite the old district being in debt already. A new school grading system was put into place and a Detroit Education Commission formed to regulate school closings and openings, and could also accept money from donors; public or private.
None of these “efforts” provided a solution provided to ensure schools weren’t closed. In early January it was announced that among the 38 Michigan schools slated to close, at least 16 Detroit Public schools will be shuttered.
Closing of schools equal crises for African students and parents
It was also announced that next year 35 more schools are slated to be closed. Among these schools are Edwin Denby High School, Mumford High School, Pershing High School and all three of the newly formed Osborn schools.
Some of the schools on the list have been open only a few months but what anyone has yet to answer is, if these schools do in fact close, where will the former students be sent to continue their studies?
Most schools on the list are nowhere near a school that’s doing any better, for example, Pontiac High School is on the list as well and it is the only high school in that district.
African mother, China Lee, stated she will be sending her son to the Berkley school district (which is 89 percent white) as his school is scheduled to close next year, but that it is “extremely inconvenient since [her] support is closer to the school.”
This situation leaves African parents with very little options; as they grapple with where to send their children. Many have to answer questions like, “Do we have the transportation to do that in a city with an extremely inadequate transportation system?” Do we leave the city to move closer to a better school district? Can we afford to move? Do we send our children to failing school that is closer to us, that will likely be closed soon as well?
Planning the failure of African students
It also raises the question of what effect closing a school will have on African neighborhoods, as blight is also a problem in Detroit.
There have been multiple teacher strikes and even student strikes because of outdated textbooks, lack of supplies, and unsafe conditions in the schools.
In 2015 and 2016 several schools were found to have dangerous mold as well as unsafe drinking water. None of the “solutions” the State has provided are real solutions at all. The education, health, and overall well-being of African parents and their children are obviously of no concern to the State of Michigan. This situation is concerning and seems to leave more questions than answers and more problems than solutions.
Reform is not the answer, revolution is
The school reform office is scheduled to make a final decision within the next two months on whether closing some of schools will be a viable solution or only create more problems for students. If they decide the latter state law offers other solutions which can mean anything from turning the school into a charter school or even allowing a CEO to step in and take over the schools’ academics.
It’s becoming very clear that the City of Detroit has no interest in saving schools in African neighborhoods. The city offers no real solution that will ensure even a basic education for the African youth.
There’s no money to pay teachers and update textbooks but there is a brand new stadium being built downtown. Meanwhile, the schools in white areas are not only well staffed, well-funded and have up to date textbooks they also have an adequate amount of computers and other advanced learning tools.
The question now becomes do we allow the colonial state to function as the overseer of our children’s education or do we take this into our own hands. We have to begin to find solutions for our community instead of allowing the destabilization of our communities.
Gentrification is Ethnic Cleansing
The State is more concerned with making the Downtown Detroit area more appealing to the white population than it is in actually investing in the areas where actual citizens (83% of which is African) live. White people are slowly encroaching into areas of the city where you never used to see them. It’s becoming clearer that these school closings are just another step in gentrifying our city.
By closing the schools and allowing blight to take over neighborhoods, it is ensured that more and more African people will be pushed out of their own neighborhoods. After they push us out they’ll come in build neighborhoods and schools for the white people who now want to live here.
The police presence in the city is also much higher as a result. The rent in some areas has also gone up because now white people are moving in. Money that could have been invested in our schools was used to tear up half of downtown to build a tram, but our bus system is barely functional.
Detroit Public Schools are run like prisons
This would never fly in any of the Grosse Pointe areas, St Claire Shores, or any other neighboring predominantly white areas; and many DPS schools are run like prisons to begin with. Security guards armed with walkie-talkie’s, handcuffs, and pepper spray patrol the halls; metal detectors are at the front of each door and random bag checks and frisks of students occur very often.
So you see these are not learning environments. These “schools” are not places where children are being taught and challenged to think and groomed to be productive adults. Because of colonialism these urban, predominately African schools are failing and being ran as places where they are groomed for prison life, where teachers show up to babysit, if they show up at all that is.
It’s time for the Black Community to take control of the situation. We should be the ones deciding how our children learn, what they learn, and what to do about failing schools. Corporations should not be allowed to come in and use these schools as ways to make money, the future of our children are at stake.
This is why bringing the Uhuru Movement to Detroit is so important and the theory of self-determination is no longer just an ideology, but a real goal. We cannot trust the State and its officials to have the best interests of the African people in mind, no; it is up to us to fix our communities and teach our children.