Oakman Elementary, a school on the northwestern side of Detroit, received the news that in April of 2013 the school would be closing its doors and joining nearly 100 public schools that had been closed since 2009. The announcement was made to a group of parents including Aliya Moore President of the Parent’s association with a great rapport with the kids and parents a like, mother to Chrishawana 5th Grade and Tyliya who was just a toddler at the time. A former General Motors Executive had been tasked with “righting the struggling Detroit Public Schools.”
In his presentation he showed the parents that due to costs to restore the school they were closing it down, and also due to the fact that the students were performing poorly, so they had an option to attend two schools 2.4 miles away and 1.2miles. For Aliya, who had been laid off from her job as a janitor, with no income or access to a car she could not afford to bus from station to station every day to take Tyliya to schools that were outside her neighborhood. She also, thought of Oakman as a home away from home.
More than half of the students at Oakman were special needs children, they were disabled, they were minorities, and they had nowhere to go. The schools that were being proposed as options for them were not handicap-accessible nor did they provide special needs catered curriculums, teachers, or training for the staff. Which is especially worrisome as black girls with disabilities are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts, and this was a predominantly disabled student body:
So when this GM executive told the parents that as a result of their children’s poor performance and told them that their school fell within the bottom 5% on academic performance, the parents felt like they were absorbing so much information and betrayal at one time they didn’t know what to do. Looking around the sidewalks were cracked, plant life had made it seem wild again, and the interior was suffering as well, but was it worth shutting down?
Aliya, mother to Tyliya and Chrishawana, knew that Detroit schools weren’t good and that kids weren’t doing well but that’s why she liked Oakman. She could be there with her kids and make sure they were all getting attention.
In an article from NPR they outline an astonishing:
That less than 25% of Freshmen in Detroit were continuing on to pursue their education. But Aliya was taught and emphasized by her parents the importance of consistency in education, and that very consistency was being stripped from her, not to mention Aliya herself was a college graduate from one of the top schools in Michigan and struggled finding work (it was not her dream to become a janitor of course).
In Detroit, they moved to a Charter School based system, a move Betsy Devos was brought onto the #Trump Cabinet for. Betsy Devos, who just divulged that she believed it was the State’s responsibility to decide whether children with disabilities had the right to education or accommodations. Betsy Devos, is unaware that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federally upheld law that mandates children with disabilities be allowed free and appropriate education. Doesn’t it seem like in her home state they have no regard for I.D.E.A?
The result? 17% of Detroit Charter School Students rated proficient in Math. Those numbers are not good. How much of a difference was there between Public Schools? 14% of Public School students rated proficient in Math on 2014 (according to the Detroit Free Press). Just last year less than 1% of the students in Excellent Schools, the best of the best, top notch students presumed to be receiving the best education, received an A or B+. Worse yet 70% earned a D+ or lower. That’s almost 3/4 receiving D’s and 40% of them were from Charter Schools. And the ones who stick it out against the odds and graduate? Of those high school seniors only 10% of them are actually college ready. Is this public service? Is this what we imagine education to be? Is this what we imagine a student who wants to learn, shows up for class every day, and then leaves school is left with in the end?
Earlier this year a Los Angeles Public Interest Law Firm sued the state of Michigan for denying its children the right to LITERACY. That means that the students in Michigan are being purposely denied the right to read. Betsy Devos, in her Charter School and For Profit School agenda, had figured out a way to deny minority and poor children the right to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. Not Only That, but:
The parents had to come to our sanctuary state to seek out a precedence setting class action suit that has never been brought forth before. Documenting the lasting imprints that institutionalized racism and discrimination leaves on a child will last a lifetime, and if a school system could be set up to in fact prevent certain students from learning, and has documented mistreatment of those students, then are the people who were brought in to implement these ‘reforms’ not to blame?
Unsafe conditions and yet someone is making a profit off of all of this. Betsy Devos has a long history of supporting for profit schools in Detroit, she is an investor in Social Finance a student loan refinancer, which means she makes a profit off of the student loan crisis and refinancing those loans at the student’s loss. Not to mention that over 80% of Charter Schools in Detroit are owned and operated by For Profit Companies. This is frightening stuff here, if all the schools are owned by the for profit sector and the people in charge of reforming them have experience that ties them to those company’s successes, then it’s no wonder that there is a large majority of the students being deliberately left behind.
The images of education in the world that is in front of us are a far cry from equal.
Trump’s appointees are not fit to take power, we must do everything in our power to prevent them. We must stall, protest, fight, show up, speak up, and stand up for what we believe in. There is still something we can do, and just because you live in a city where all hope is lost: you have rights and a voice that matters.
According to the National Women’s Law Center Schools are unfairly pushing our minority children out, and this is unlawful and unfair. But there are steps you can take to stand up for yourself and for the students you see negatively impacted by racism:
Here is a step by step guide and tool kit to get started on figuring out if your school’s policies are negatively targeting minority girls.
Money is not the answer, it is not the problem, this is what a family waiting at a Detroit bus stop to go to school looks like: (photo by Joshua Lott for NY Times)
Aliya, Chrishawana, and Taliya, walking to try to find a Kindergarden that Taliya could attend because they have no car or money for the bus and their school was closed down: (photo by Cassandra Giraldo for ViceNews)
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