Reading an article about the Detroit school district today was enlightening although, me being from Michigan, not shocking.
According to this article, one Detroit school is asking for parents, volunteers, teachers, etc. to bring in toilet paper and light bulbs to keep the schools open.
DETROIT -- A Detroit elementary school is asking for donations of toilet paper and light bulbs to continue functioning.
The principal of the Academy of Americas sent a letter to staff, parents and partners asking for donations of items "that are of the utmost importance for proper school functioning and most importantly for student health and safety."
In the letter, Principal Naomi Khalil cited budget constraints within the district as the reason that the school could no longer stock the items.
The district is grappling with a more than $400 million budget deficit and is on the verge of being assigned an emergency financial manager by the state.
The letter asks for toilet paper, paper towel rolls, trash bags and 60-, 100- or 150-watt light bulbs.
"We realize that the economic situation is stressful for our entire community, but we are asking for your collaboration," wrote Khalil. "We thank you for your cooperation and we hope that as a school community we can pull together to guarantee the best possible educational environment for our children."
Now, our children have attended two different districts and we have always done some things to help out. Teachers have asked for extra Kleenex during the runny nose season, snack items, or special craft supplies, and we help out. Aren't there some basic things that we should expect from schools though? Toilet paper, light bulbs?
The reality is though that Detroit is a cesspool. The national media dumps on them and the city leaders complain and call the negative press unfair but unless you live in Michigan, you do not realize what kind of a mess this city really is in. We drove through the city last summer. Word of caution, this is not recommended. Other than the downtown area around the ballparks, the city is like what you would imagine a third world country looks like. Graffiti, boarded up buildings, burnt out buildings, broken down cars. I have never been to Mexico but this is how I imagine a lot of their cities. Do not think I am exaggerating.
I also used to get the Detroit News because they have the best sports section around. Reading the paper was stunning. Kilpatrick was still mayor. I don't think he had a family member who was not profiting in some big way from the city. Half of the city's street lights don't work and garbage collection is simply not done throughout half of the city. Further, in a city with a high unemployment rate, citizens cannot get out and look for jobs because a large portion of their bus routes simply do not run, giving them no way to get around.
The school district has the distinct honor of graduating the fewest percentage in the country, 24%. Put another way, more than 3 out of 4 children who enter high school in 9th grade do not graduate. This is more than unsettling, it's criminal.
Anyone want to take a guess at what party has ruled this city for decades?
To the southwest of Detroit we have the school district of Chicago. According to this article, this school district had enough money to spend $67,000 on 30 cappuccino machines. Turns out that Detroit is not the only school district that needs fixing.
Chicago public school bureaucrats skirted competitive bidding rules to buy 30 cappuccino/espresso machines for $67,000, with most of the machines going unused because the schools they were ordered for had not asked for them, according to a report by the CPS Office of Inspector General.
In the case of the cappuccino machines, central office administrators split the order among 21 vocational schools to avoid competitive bidding required for purchases over $10,000. As a result CPS paid about $12,000 too much, according to Inspector General James Sullivan. "We were able to find the same machines cheaper online," he said.
"We also look at it as a waste of money because the schools didn't even know they were getting the equipment, schools didn't know how to use the machines and weren't prepared to implement them into the curriculum," Sullivan said.
That was just one example of questionable CPS actions detailed in the inspector general's 2008 annual report. Others included high school staffers changing grades to pump up transcripts of student athletes and workers at a restricted-enrollment grade school falsifying addresses to get relatives admitted.
Although I do give Chicago one big pat on the back. According to the article, these issues are being addressed. Policies are being changed and employees are being suspended or fired. In Detroit reports like this are looked at as business as usual. Finally, does anyone want to guess at what the stock answer is if anyone were to question the practices in Detroit? Racism.
The people of Detroit can take heart on one thing, help is on the way. Barack Obama has nominated Arne Duncan from the Chicago school district as Secretary of Education. Under him 51% of Chicago kids graduated. Things are looking up now.