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Of state takeover and Eichmann

By Elena Herrada

The Detroit School Board under emergency managerment is forced to sue in court or request via the Freedom of Information Act any information other elected officials would routinely receive without even requesting it.

Under the opaque practices of the emergency manager, no contracts have to go out for bid. All is decided by the emergency manager, or so it sometimes seems. Other times, the EM has no power. For example, the EM had no power to keep schools from closing. Someone else made these decisions and the EM serves as a buffer between the public and the forces behind the takeover.

Recently, I had the opportunity to receive training on the software PeopleSoft, which shows expenditures item by item. Interestingly, the Educational Achievement Authority declined this program, opting to use another program, which could not track finances as easily. Even so, the training I attended showed broad figures for budgeted items, expenditure and revenue accounts.

The money going into DPS is staggering; millions upon millions, which only one person, the governor, has power to spend. Gov. Snyder saw fit to divide DPS into a failing district, the Educational Achievement Authority, by splitting off 15 schools from DPS, of which three are charters. Another nine “self-governing” schools belong to the “Office of Innovation,” a private district within DPS schools not subject to public oversight.

Included in this is the contested Detroit School of Arts. DSA parents and students are waging a battle with University of Michigan to return the school to governance by DPS.   All of these used to be Detroit Public Schools’ property, for which Detroit taxpayers are still footing the bill.

Deconstructing the takeover is mindboggling at best. Earlier this year, I went to see the film “Hannah Arendt,” about the journalist who covered the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker. She was vilified for her description of Eichmann. His trial was famous and her coverage of it was quite controversial. She became fascinated with his denial of guilt for his role in the Holocaust. He insisted he was simply doing his job, which did not include seeing the faces of Jews who would be sent to the camps. He did logistics. He was a bureaucrat. He followed orders. Arendt was able to see how he did it.

How did the whole campaign work? How did they get so many people to participate in this mass murder? They divided it up.

As I began to ask the IT (information technology) specialists questions about the spending of Detroit students’ money on various line items, they kept saying, “we only do IT.” When I asked about the budget for the EAA and they told me the EAA was not using the most state-of-the-art software for financial accountability, I asked them why they would decline. They said simply: “That’s a good question.” When I asked them about the Oakman School being torn down, based on fraudulent reports on the condition of the building while special needs orthopedic students stayed home because their parents had no place to send them with the accomodations needed, they did not have any response.

This is how they did it:They broke it all up and gave  pieces of the work to departments. Someone — who we don’t know — made the decision to tear down perfectly good buildings and give the demolition company the materials from the building, which circumvents the part of the Emergency Manger law requiring expenditures over $50,000 be presented to the governing body. That body in this case is the Detroit Board of Education, which would then  have 10 days to come up with an alternative. Of course we have no way of doing this because we received no information from the looters.

We hear the city — more accurately EM Kevyn Orr and the Jones Day law firm ­ — wants to clear all the land and make a park where currently the beautiful, empty Oakman Orthopedic School sits awaiting demolition.

Our schools have been taken hostage by a band of corporate looters with an entire bureaucracy in place to do it. They keep them separate lest they get the whole picture. The technicians are just following orders.

Elena Herrada represents District 2 on Detroit Board of Education.

 

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