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Detroit community object to 43 students in a classroom

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

This fall, back to school for Detroit Public School students means more school closings and 43 students per classroom. Teachers expect a 10 percent pay cut among other reductions, according to the district’s new deficit elimination plan and budget proposal, which was approved by the state Aug. 20. 

Pastor Steve Bland at Ludington press conference, Aug. 20. STAFF PHOTO

Pastor Steve Bland at Ludington press conference, Aug. 20. STAFF PHOTO

On the same day, at a press conference held in front of the Ludington Magnet Middle school on Detroit’s northwest side, parents, students and community leaders talked about what the changes would mean for the struggling school district and asked the community to call on Gov. Rick Snyder to reject the plan. 

“We’re watching a billion dollar facility being built right downtown. We’re building these things, but who’s going to take care of them, who’s going to be able to supply them?” asks Pastor Steve Bland of Liberty Temple Church referring to the new hockey stadium to be built in downtown Detroit. “We’ve got to educate children to make a difference so they’ll be around when we’re no longer around.”  

Bland believes the plan for DPS  will “bring down DPS.”

Teachers at the press conference, who have had wage cuts and other reductions in previous years, said this year’s cuts go too far and will send more students to charters and out of DPS.

In addition to the 10 percent pay cut, the DPS administration also switched health care providers for teachers who say their premiums have doubled and they have less coverage.

“This is a punch, I am falling back instead of going forward,”  says Jackie Ligget a DPS school service assistant.  “If they keep making these cuts, they are going to lose all their staff. These kids are not going to have anywhere to go, charter schools are going to take them and we’ll have nothing left,”

Ligget says teachers need support. 

“As teachers, as staff members, we need to pull together to stand together for what we believe in and that is justice. We need to put the money back in our pockets instead of taking it out of our pockets. I pray we are able to live a normal life, we are able to go into these classrooms and teach and love, because we are the parents when they are with us,” Ligget said.

Patrick Bosworth, a parent of a student at Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School, believes DPS’ most recent changes “will make it impossible to recruit and retain quality teachers.”

The press conference coincided with State Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s adoption of the deficit elimination plan.

Democratic candidate for State Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, fresh off a primary victory, hopes Gov. Snyder reconsiders this plan. She says these cuts leave Detroit children in a separate and unequal school district. 

“How are you going to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts and not protect pensioners and students?” asked Dagnogo

A former teacher, Dagnogo, also says the cuts are “inhumane” and will make teaching impossible. She says the latest cuts further weaken the district and morale. 

The 10-percent wage reduction takes effect Oct. 1. Twenty-eight more schools will close in the 2015-2016 school year.

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