Detroit parents, teachers, and school officials were in Lansing on Tuesday to speak out on bills meant to rescue Michigan’s largest district.
Demonstrators gathered outside a state Senate committee hearing on Senate bills 710 and 711, not to oppose the legislation, but to bring attention to the deteriorating state of Detroit Public Schools (DPS). The crowd of about 20 people pointed to problems ranging from filthy, overcrowded classrooms to high teacher turnover. “We’ve brought this to the state because the state has managed our schools, first of all, too long. And parents need to have a voice,” said Detroit Parent Network spokesperson Jennifer LoPiccolo.
Inside the hearing, parent Jonathan Clark told lawmakers that high teacher turnover has been hard on his autistic son – who has trouble bonding with new people. “And to ask a seven-year-old autistic boy to meet five new teachers in one school year is cruel,” said Clark.
Governor Rick Snyder is asking lawmakers to restructure DPS and dedicate more than $700 million from the state over several years to help pay down the district’s debt and keep it from going broke.
Detroit school officials got a chance to weigh in Tuesday on the bills. School board member Lamar Lemmons says he opposes the proposed creation of an appointed board to oversee school openings and closings – including for charter schools. But he could support a similar board that oversees openings and closings for all Michigan schools. “We could work with that, because that would not be Detroit-specific. We do not want a segregated or Jim Crow approach to educating our children,” said Lemmons.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Governor Snyder say an appointed oversight board is needed to create stability in Detroit schools.