Since the state’s takeover of the public school system seven years ago, debts are now $515 million and rising across the city’s 97 schools. Enrollment is at an all-time low and the performance of remaining students is the poorest in the nation.
Sadly, many teachers have quit or organized a sick-out last week for two days urging officials to fix the system and hazardous conditions.
Using the hashtag #SupportDPSTeachers, Twitter brought mushrooms, black mold, and other school damages to the forefront.
Lakia Wilson, a school counselor at Spain Elementary School, gave a heartbreaking tour to The American Federation of Teachers, unveiling warped gym floors and exposed pipes. The school’s music program also came to a halt after the administration fired their music teacher; meanwhile, the library only holds a limited number of books.
After teaching at Spain for 19 years, the veteran educator said she’s not prepared to give up on her students.
“The community is being let down and sold out,” Wilson said.
Things weren’t always as they are now, she says. She remembers when the halls bustled with 1,400 students. They went to orchestra, band, art, drama or computer class. Now there are only one-third that number.
“I love these kids, I love them. I love their families. I’ve taught them; many of their parents were my students.” Wilson says.”I’m committed to them.”
But she says they are being left behind and exposed to what she believes to be dangerous elements in the school. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has an open investigation into the conditions there.
Many have blamed Governor Rick Snyder for the slow progress in rebuilding schools. Mayor Mike Duggan said he plans to speak with Snyder about the “deeply disturbing” images he saw during his tour of the DPS schools last week.
Educators say efforts to improve the conditions have only begun due to media attention and photos posted online.