by Dr. John Telford
The corporate exploiters
Of grass-root Detroiters
Have killed education
That once led the nation.
The deck has been stacked against Detroiters, our children, our good elected school board, and its appointed superintendent ever since the entirely unwarranted state takeover of the Detroit Public Schools in 1999. That takeover was Step One of a suspected legislative and corporate conspiracy to destroy the venerable DPS (founded in 1842) in order to convert our city to one ultimately served by only for-profit charter schools unaccountable to the community. In 1999, DPS enjoyed a surplus of $114 million and its student test scores were at the state midpoint and rising under the talented fiscal and academic management of then-superintendent Eddie Green. At the time, the district ranked as the best in the nation among urban districts with a majority of students on free or reduced-cost lunch programs. Detroit voters–always supportive of their schools–had approved a millage of $1.5 billion to renovate buildings in need of repair and to replace a few of the older ones. Then-governor John Engler and his cohorts in and out of Lansing were virtually salivating over the resultant lucrative contracts to be let.
Now seventeen years later, the district is a billion dollars in debt and the test scores have plummeted to become the worst in America (except for those of the fifteen schools in the “Educational Achievement” Authority–which are even worse. The EAA is the state-created “reform” district consisting of schools the Governor’s appointed emergency manager pirated from DPS in 2012 in a clear conflict of interest, since he managed one district and sat on the board of the other). Perfectly good schools that were simply in need of maintenance and minor repairs were demolished or closed and replaced with ones that cost far more than they should have, and no forensic audit has been conducted to uncover the concomitant kickbacks and other theft. Class sizes have skyrocketed. A state-of-the-art school serving physically and mentally challenged students and one that taught students to pilot aircraft have been closed, and hundreds of low-performing and unmonitored charter schools that reject special-needs students pockmark the city. During this long takeover era (that now will evidently extend into the coming decade), DPS and EAA administrators have been caught stealing. A former DPS superintendent who became superintendent in Chicago has gone to prison for bilking taxpayers there. A former city council president has been convicted of sexual misconduct with a DPS student. Legislation has now been enacted which would permit Detroit’s public school administrators to hire uncertified teachers and to confiscate Detroit taxpayers’ assets de facto under the odious Public Act 436, the disenfranchising replacement law for PA 4, the emergency management law that the state’s voters rejected in 2012. This legislation also phases out DPS itself, replacing it with a “new” and inadequately funded school system ironically entitled the Detroit “Community” School District, whose leaders have no coherent plan to restore student scores to their 1999 levels. Thus, the Jim Crowist plot engendered back in 1999 by the unwarranted DPS takeover has finally been fulfilled.
None of these abuses would have occurred had the current democratically elected school board–recently (and possibly permanently) dissolved now by legislative and executive fiat–been allowed to perform its due diligence unrestricted by the unwarranted DPS takeover. Indeed, the litany of atrocities perpetrated by that 1999 takeover is far too lengthy for this writer to recount completely here. Suffice it to be said that the only way the once predominant DPS can even begin to be made whole again is for the state legislators to restore the democratically elected DPS board to full and immediate power and repay the billion dollars that the state’s appointed DPS overseers squandered and stole. In the meantime, state and federal lawsuits initiated by this good DPS board, its duly appointed superintendent (namely, me), and a small group of parents continue to demand long overdue reparations on behalf of Detroit’s untold thousands of cheated and miseducated schoolchildren.
Dr. John Telford is a Detroit educator, author, poet, and former track star who served pro bono as the democratically elected Detroit school board’s appointed superintendent in 2012-2013. His most recent book is a biography of legendary DPS basketball coach Will Robinson (available at Amazon Books). Hear the John Telford Show Sunday afternoons at 3:00 on WCHB NewsTalk1200, and contact him at DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com or (313) 460-8272. His website is www.AlifeontheRUN.com. Checks to support one of the DPS lawsuits can be mailed to Detroit Public Schools Client Trust Account, ℅ attorney Thomas Bleakley, 21957 Shorepointe Lane, St. Clair Shores, MI 48080.