Mercedes Schneider reviews the ruination of public education in Detroit while under the thumb of Betsy DeVos. She relies on an article that appeared in Truthout by Joseph Natoli.


Natoli wrote:


“Privatization of all things public has slammed Detroit as gentrifying investors seek to put price tags on what was previously public domain. In predatory fashion, privatizers are targeting the city’s struggling students as a new frontier for profit.


“How weak and vulnerable is public education in Detroit? The Nation’s Report Card, published by an independent federal commission, named Detroit Public Schools the country’s “lowest-performing urban school district” in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2011, a Republican state legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder repealed a statewide cap on the number of Detroit charter schools. The floodgates were opened and privatizing predators rolled in.


“Bankruptcy following the collapse of the jobs that fueled the “Motor City” has exposed Detroit to the dynamics described by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. A crisis, either arranged or accidental, precipitates a rush to recuperation. Lobbyists of wealthy investors petition a government that wealthy investors have put in place. A much-quoted “checks and balances” security shield for democratic governance is thus so easily disarmed.


“The more startling, dire and urgent the crisis, the greater the rush to a “saving” privatization. Low reading and math scores, shared by both charter and public schools, do not as dramatically make the case that crisis exists, as does a more observable infrastructure rot and decay. When statistics do not show charter schools to be better spaces for learning than public schools, privatizers instead focus on appearances. In the case of Detroit public schools, appearance alone makes the case of crisis and failure in the eyes of parents. And, similarly, coats and ties or uniforms in classrooms shiny with new computers make the case for achievement and success.


“Still, the state of physical decay of Detroit schools is alarming: “Black mold in school buildings. Classroom heating systems that fail during frigid Michigan winters. Leaky roofs, warped floors, and collapsed ceilings,” enumerates writer Eli Savit. The crisis has, of course, been financially engineered. The collapse of physical infrastructure in Michigan schools is funded solely through property taxes, thus less revenue is garnered in Detroit, where the average home is $40,000. Meanwhile, the average home in nearby Bloomfield Hills is worth 10 times that.


“Weakening Strategies


“Weakening public education to the point that privatization looks like rescue is accomplished by funding that is decreased when tax funds are siphoned off to for-profit charter schools. It is also inequitably allocated within the wide divide between poverty and wealth that exists in the US. When you allocate based on property ownership, you are at once solidifying the gap between rich and poor and, most grievously, extending that gap into the future.”