Today's post is authored by MedEq Volunteer Coordinator, Navkiranjot Kaur.
On January 11th, 2016, 64 of 97 schools in the Detroit Public School District were closed due to a “sick-out” organized by teachers. As a method of protestation, teachers are using sick days that should, as the name entails, only be used when the teacher is too ill to perform her duties. While teachers demand attention to the distressed, unsafe conditions of schools in the district, 31,000 students are at a loss. Perhaps this is a small price to pay for the future of education in Detroit. It is challenging to address the numerous issues that plague the school system, but the teachers and district officials must cooperate.
The day after the sick-out, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan toured a number of schools in the district and addressed the concerns raised by the teachers. According to Detroit Free Press and the Christian Science Monitor, he reported that conditions were “heartbreaking,” seeing sights of dead mice, gym floors with water damage, and students wearing coats in cold classrooms. It is not only the physical conditions of the schools that have become intolerable in Detroit, but problems such as rodents, water leaks, and mold growth pose a great threat to the health of students and professionals in the schools.
This may be news to the rest of us, but to school and district officials, these appalling conditions are nothing new. These things don’t just happen overnight, the quality of Detroit school buildings have been deteriorating for years. In addition to inadequate funding, is it any surprise that DPS students score lowest among the nation’s largest cities in math and reading? 30-40% of the funding received by the schools was used to pay off city debt in the past year when it should have been used in the classroom.
Although Mayor Duggan is pushing for reform, he has no control over the city’s school system. Time and time again, issues have been brought to the attention of officials, but nothing has been done. It seems now that the teachers have taken it into their own hands. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Federation of Teachers union has already pushed for inspections to identify safety and health hazards in the buildings. But at last, when environmental specialist were brought in, a DPS attorney restricted access. Perhaps this was due to regulations at the state and local level, but it has become apparent that the teachers and district are working against each other.