Detroit Public Schools: Bankrupting Minority Students’ Futures

Editor’s note: The following is the second in a series of FrontPage articles that will unmask the racial injustice of Democrat-controlled education by examining some of the nation’s worst (and biggest spending) school districts. To read about the Washington, DC public school system, click here.

In 2009, when the Detroit Public School (DPS) system was facing bankruptcy engendered by huge operating deficits and widespread corruption, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan characterized it as a “national disgrace.” The disgrace, unfortunately, is much more than meets the eye: For all of the bankrupting spending, the school system’s educational results for the 88 percent black student population remain abysmal. And yet the DPS is but a microcosm of the silent scandal haunting the Left, which controls the district and countless others across the nation in precisely the same circumstances. Throughout America, minority students find themselves conscripted into these institutions of misery, while the architects of their prisons remain accountable to no one.

In 2009, DPS students turned in the lowest scores ever recorded in the national math proficiency test over its then-21-year history. By 2011, school officials were patting themselves on the back for achieving the highest “graduation” rate garnered since the state began using new methodology in 2007 to calculate results. It was 62 percent — meaning nearly two-in-five students failed to get their diploma using this methodology. Furthermore, that graduation rate remained well below the state average of 75.95 percent. Dropout rates for DPS have also decreased from almost 30 percent in 2007 to 19.09 percent in 2010. Yet they too did not favorably compare to the statewide average of 11.07 percent.

As for labeling the increase in the graduation rate a “success” story, such success was belied by a Michigan Department of Education study conducted in 2011. It revealed that the word “graduation” is largely a euphemism. At Renaissance High, the district’s top high school, only ten percent of the students were considered “college ready,” despite a 2010 graduation rate of 95.5 percent. As of June 2012, a dismal 1.8 percent of DPS students throughout the entire system were considered capable of doing college-level work.

In terms of the racial element, Education Trust-Midwest reported that Michigan has one of the worst student achievement gaps in the nation. Thus, Detroit’s overwhelmingly black student body has fallen behind their white counterparts as far as any in the country — and as Michigan Merit Exam (MME) results reveal, the gap is getting larger. In 2011, Detroit tied Washington, D.C. for last place nationwide in eighth-grade reading scores. Only 7 percent of students were grade-level proficient or better, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Almost unbelievably, DPS students were even worse in math. The Education Department’s 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test revealed that a paltry 4 percent of DPS students scored highly enough to be rated “proficient” or better.

None of this stopped Detroit teachers from taking a day off last December 11 to protest Michigan’s subsequently enacted right-to-work law. Despite the consistently substandard education produced by the city’s school unions, their members knew that reprisals for either that reality or their illegitimate day off would never be challenged. The Michigan Education Association spent more than $7 million on political contributions, 86 percent of which went to Democrats. That would be the same unions, along with their Democrat enablers, who consistently lobby against reforms such as vouchers, charter schools, the closing of underperforming schools, or anything else that puts the interests of students over those of the union.

Yet there are nascent changes occurring that may finally put those union interests in check. The 2012-2013 school year marks the implementation of the new Educational Achievement Authority (EAA), a state-level entity that manages troubled schools. In Detroit, the EAA took control of 15 school districts and the per-pupil state funding that went with them. It is staffed by recruits from Teach For America, a non-union teaching association comprised of top college graduates. The combination of takeovers and non-union teachers threatens the entrenched interests of the school boards and the unions. The EAA rankled Detroit school board officials to the point that they voted unanimously to withdraw from the state authority.

During the meeting where the vote took place, the board’s urge to eliminate genuine competition was fierce. “We also are going to call upon the parents to drive to stop the expansion of the Education Achievement Authority and we’re going to cancel our relationship with the EAA, so that by the fall we’ll be prepared to absorb those additional kids in our buildings, which are currently being leased for $1 to the EAA system,” said Detroit Board of Education President LaMar Lemmons.

They were also driven to act by what occurred on Election Day. Michigan voters repealed Public Act 4 that allowed the appointment by the governor of fiscal managers to oversee municipalities and school districts that defaulted on their loans. Since 2009, Detroit has had two different emergency managers. Former Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm appointed Robert Bobb, a former president of the Washington, D.C. school board, to run the DPS. Two years later, Roy Roberts was appointed to the same post by Gov. Rick Snyder. After the repeal of Public Act 4, the state asserted that emergency managers were subject to an older, more limited statute called Public Act 72, which still left emergency managers in control.

Yet in Detroit, the school board, wanting to do more than rid themselves of the EAA, also filed a lawsuit to get rid of Roberts, claiming he no longer had the authority to run the DPS. The school district countered that the repeal of Public Act 4 simply reinstated Public Act 72 and Roberts was still in charge. The case went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. It ruled 6-0 that it would not overturn a ruling by the state Court of Appeals, which held that Roberts lawfully holds office under Public Act 72. While all of this was occurring, state legislators drafted and passed a substitute statute to give emergency managers more leeway, and Gov. Snyder signed it into law. As a result many of the emergency manager powers have been restored, but districts and municipalities have more time to get their acts together before an emergency manager is appointed.

For the DPS, nothing changes. The EAA is still functional, and Roberts remains charged with the daunting task of bringing the budget back into balance. The latest financial plan for saving the system was obtained by The Detroit News on January 24. It represents the third effort undertaken by DPS officials to deal with the massive deficits that have plagued the system, beginning with a $200 million shortfall in 2009 that rose to $327 million by 2011. According to the paper, the DPS’s financial meltdown will continue through 2016. By then, Roberts expects to have a balanced budget, but the price paid for that balance will be stark: the system that had educated approximately 160,000 students in 2000, will be reduced to serving less than 40,000 pupils sixteen years later.

Some of the budget deficit can be attributed to a continuing exodus of students, averaging about 8,000 per year, at a cost of $7300 in lost aid from the state per student. Thus, the DPS’s expected take of $720 million in revenues to operate the district in 2013 is projected to drop to $622 million by 2014, $580 million by 2015, and $547 million by 2016. Union and school board officials are quick to point out that budget cuts are the chief source of their problems. “How are you going to sell to the community that they should entrust their children to you if you’re constantly cutting?” contended Detroit Federation of Teachers president Keith Johnson. “You can’t do it…Certainly, you’re going to accelerate the exodus from Detroit Public Schools.”

Yet Johnson and others conveniently ignore the impetus behind that exodus, namely the alienation of their client base. A poll commissioned last October by the Detroit News revealed that a sky-high 79 percent of the eight hundred residents surveyed do not want their children educated by the DPS. They prefer sending their children to a charter school, a private school or a school outside Detroit. In other words, they prefer the one thing that is utterly anathema to the DPS: competition.

Competition is one of the typical fallback excuses used by the DPS and their enablers to rationalize their own ineptitude. In unionized school districts around the nation, the prevailing “wisdom” is that such competition starves the public schools of the vital resources necessary to properly educate children. In Detroit, that is simply not the case. The DPS’s per-pupil expenditures were $12,801 in 2009-2010, according to the Census Bureau, or as much as $15,570 per pupil in 2010, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which also noted that Detroit had the highest per pupil expenditures in the state from 2004-2010.

Money well spent? More like an unmitigated disaster, underscored by the reality that nearly half the population of Detroit remains functionally illiterate. A full 47 percent of residents are, as Karen Tyler-Ruiz, director of the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, puts it, “Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job–those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said. Thus, rampant illiteracy is part of the status quo the educational establishment in Detroit is fighting tooth and nail to preserve, even as years of empty promises of “reform” creating that illiteracy go unfulfilled.

It’s not hard to understand why. Besides the lack of quality in the classroom, fraud and mismanagement have also plagued the DPS for over a decade. As far back as 1999, a seven-month investigation by the Detroit News concluded that a $1.5 billion bond issue for school improvements was a disaster. “Incompetence, mismanagement, and cronyism by Detroit school officials, employees, and contractors, and a system with inadequate safeguards, have devastated a $1.5 billion school construction project,” the paper stated. In June 2009, Robert Bobb brought in a team of forensic accounting analysts, who discovered that 257 “ghost” employees were receiving paychecks. Two months later, seven more public officials were charged with multiple felonies for operating an embezzlement scheme. It was also discovered that approximately 500 illegal healthcare dependents were costing the district millions. In 2012, a DPS contract accountant and her daughter, a teacher, were indicted by the FBI for fraud, conspiracy and tax charges.

Thus, it is unsurprising that a district boasting a $103.6 million budget surplus as recently as 2002 found itself on the brink of bankruptcy by 2009. Yet such corruption was not limited to people involved with the DPS. It is part of a larger pattern of citywide corruption perpetrated by people such as former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his aide, the wife of House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI), several city council members and a police chief who, along with countless others, were indicted, arrested and/or imprisoned for criminal charges involving bribes, embezzlement and kickbacks. As result, the threat of bankruptcy looms not just over the school system, but the entire city of Detroit as well.

And make no mistake: this is a debacle caused entirely by Democrats. Not a single Republican holds elected office in the city. The last Republican Mayor was Louis Miriani, whose term ended in 1962. It is Democrats who have mortgaged the lives of black American children in Detroit, even as they deem any challenge to their educational monopoly a threat to the students’ well-being.

Despite all hollow denials to the contrary, Detroit Democrats and their public school establishment allies own what they have created. The Detroit public school system is bankrupt — morally and financially — and it is black American school children and their parents who are most affected.

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  • AdinaK

    There is no better path, no surer outcome, to create a dependent culture than to dumb it down. The public schools have been working over time to (mis)educate the kiddies, indoctrinating them into multi-culti group-think, yet barely teaching them the basics. Fuzzy-math, anyone?

    In fact, it is always minority students who suffer the most. As expected, they have less outside resources to correct the damage, via tutors and other educational opportunities.

    But one must first understand the left's mentality in order to understand its game plan. Caring for the kiddies is the LEAST of its concerns. Since the Dem power center CONTROLS the teachers' union, suffice it to say (mis)education is the way "forward".

    After all, would a Dem controlled educational system allow this to happen? –

    Holy smokes. Tragic.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Re: "unmask the racial injustice of Democrat-controlled education by examining some of the nation’s worst (and biggest spending) school districts."

    The REAL "INJUSTICE" -I have no children in school.

    Yet my neighbors with school kids and I PAY more than $10, 000. per year to educate Mexico's kids!

    Sadly the Obama-Media bangs the false narrative that DEADBEATS are OWED MY WORK ETHIC!


    Rudy Guliani should be Mayor of Detroit.

    Let him bring in his team of professionals and he can save Detroit.

    ZERO tolerance for corruption. Jail the thieves.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Detroit – DE' – twah

    ……$49 million of taxpayer money was procured by Detroit public schools for laptops for students and teachers. The money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

    All the new technology is fine as it goes, but there's a hitch. Detroit public school kids have trouble with the basics, like simple math, reading, and writing

    So why $49 million for laptops when too many Detroit kids can't successfully use old fashioned pencils and paper to write simple words and sentences and do basic math? Why stuff like Kindle when kids can't even read from cardboard and paper books?

    The trouble with DE TWAH public schools has nothing to do with technology.
    Theys all thought gittn' a LAP TOP meant…..never mind.

    The trouble is with too many teachers who can't teach, too many parents who don't parent, and a welfare and inner city culture that eschews conventional achievement and advancement. And an incompetent, self-centered, and often corrupt political establishment that benefits from the status quo…… <a href="http://.” target=”_blank”><a href="http://.” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://.” target=”_blank”>.
    American Thinker

  • Mary Sue

    and after all that, they invariably and unwaveringly blame "Republicans" for their troubles.

    Um, WHAT Republicans? Detroit ain't seen Republicans in the majority in for like ever.

  • Anthony

    Who cares. I don’t. The young school age adults I see have all the social affectations of worse than Third World savages. How could any teacher possibly be expected to educate the uneducatable? Especially when the “teachers” For the most part are at best marginally versed in the barest rudiments of any given subject.

    Getting back to the savage thugs with backpacks that we call “students”, they are a national embarrassment but it is not entirely their fault. These students are shock troops of the left whose purpose is to dismantle society. In that effort they get an “A”. It is he objective of these scum liberals to oervert heir minds for reasons clear to anyone who understands the sick minds of the white liberals with nice suits.

    • Mary Sue

      I blame the head-in-the-sand, lassiez-faire parents.

  • pinnie

    Well they must love it…or they would change it!!. That old saying "You cant teach stupid" > was born here. A dumber collection can be seen in Washington DC.

    You would think Conyers would be embarrassed by his wifes aggregious activity…LOL I havent seen it… He is still collecting his big pay check and wallowing in CBC "heaven".

    So we keep paying and being blamed for the stupid waste of humanity. They have the uncanny ability to look a gift horse in the mouth ..pull its teeth out… then complain they have to mash its food!. A progressive is nothing.<It feeds off "people that give, care for their children, Country,society, and family.

  • davarino

    Where is the mandate that a state has to use the teachers unions? And where is the mandate that schools have to abide by failed rules? Is there some kind of federal money that holds states hostage? I say let the feds keep their money and do things your own way, the way things were done 50 to 100 years ago. Hell, I bet you could out educate every other state in the union by bucking the system and going back to things that worked, without the feds money.

    Put discipline back in school. If a kid acts up and will not quit, send him home. Mom and dad wont put up with that for long and start disciplining their own children. Go back to expectations for children. If they dont meet the expectations then hold them back a grade. Stop with the lap tops and I Pads, their just using them to play video games. And have expectations for teachers. If they dont meet them, their out. Do you think teachers in private schools would last a second if they performed as poorly as public school teachers?

    • Kody

      Actually private schools teachers are almost all worse than public school teachers and almost all charters are worse than public schools.

  • davarino


    Its all a joke and the dems/liberals should be ashamed of themselve. The black community should be up in arms about this, but some how have been duped into believing its still the systems fault even though they are spending WAY more than a private school would need to do a job that is 1000 times better. And where does this teacher worship come from? Why is it that everyone acts like teachers should be paid $100,000 a year because they are so important, blah. I think a teaching degree is next to worthless.


    • Detroit Teacher

      DPS is not run by Democrats. it is run by the state, which is completely controlled by Republicans. During the latest takeover, the Republican appointed emergency Financial Managers have lost another $100 million. The DPS deficit is entirely attributable to the two periods of time when the state took over the district.
      Much of the exodus is not because parents took their students out of DPS. The fact is, the district is giving away schools by chartering them or giving them to EAA. Financially, this is the worst thing you could do to the district. However, the Republican appointed managers do not seem to understand basic finance.


        Detroit Teacher, Why should teachers be a protected class with tenure?

        Teachers should be evaluated by their performance, by the grades their students get on Standardized Tests.

        Of course you can only do so much with the raw material that enters your classroom and that should be taken into account.

        The Teachers Unions portray their ever increasing demands for more pay and benefits as something that will benefit the students – which is simply of union GREED.

        Eliminate Tenure for teachers!

        • JacksonPearson

          Don't confuse this teacher with big words…

      • Mary Sue

        If i am not mistaken, schools are supposed to be funded by PROPERTY TAXES, are they not? The City of Detroit is the exclusive purview and control of Democrats and their union thugs.

        The Democrats don't understand finance at all, which is why your city is a sh*thole and has been in such decline for going on 50 years now.

        Are you sure said Republican isn't a RINO, btw?

      • Kody

        Good point.


    "… this is a debacle caused entirely by Democrats. Not a single Republican holds elected office in the city. The last Republican Mayor was Louis Miriani, whose term ended in 1962."

    The big mystery is why minorities don't see this.

    • JoJoJams

      See "Detroit Teacher"'s coment above…..

    • Mary Sue

      they blame the state when it does get Republicans in charge. They don't know the meaning of personal responsibility at the local level.

  • Kevin Stroup

    The voters of Detroit asked for this in how they voted. I do not see a problem. They WANTED these results. They got them.

    Stupid is as stupid does – Forest Gump

    • Mary Sue

      betcha there's a crap ton of voter fraud in Detroit.

  • Anthony

    Detroit Teacher:

    You need to be ashamed. Your product, the “students”, exist only to line your pockets and you exist only to brainwash them along “progressive” lines.

    I bet you are a nose ring adoring, hip-hop is Mozart believing , Obama loving liberal who resides far, far away from the monsters you snd you sleezy ilk manufacture.

  • Ghostwriter

    What a sad place Detroit has become.

  • sononthe_beach

    I have been reading about these matters for at least fifty years. An imaginative author can dress up the narrative in an attempt to make it all look fresh, but it is the exact same story as it has always been, which is inevitably to blame it on teachers and the schools in general. I don't recall one publicly distributed argument that has placed blame on the students themselves, but they play a central role in the problem. It is all about cultural attitudes. In any case, nothing has changed regarding these issues and the way in which they are discussed. It's called "spinning your clutch."

  • angry and taxed

    wait am I supposed to care that these people who elected the scum of the earth even in demokraut circles to represent them got their wish?? I do care I loove it!!

    urban blight when getting your wish is the most ironic justice….

  • Moliminous

    The Founding Fathers recognized clearly that education is the business of parents, not the state. There is not one word in the Constitution about education or schooling. Not one. For the first 100+ years of this Constitutional Republic, children were educated at home or local, usually church-run organizations. Parents made the choice. Then the governments got involved. Now that parental authority has been usurped by the political machinations of local, state and federal government bureaucracies and their unions.

    There will be no change for students until there is a total Separation of School and State. Anything short of this condescends to political pressures. Children will continue to lose. And it's not just the poor among us. Research has demonstrated over and again the mediocre and dismal outcomes in some of the richest school districts in California as an example of this problem writ large.

    Parents are the primary educators, not the state. The Pierce decision (1925) said it clearly: "The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."

    If those "additional obligations" are not the state or federal governments, what could they be?

    It's time for the Separation of School and State

  • leila

    all of the comments on dps and minority students…why hasn't anyone mentioned the arab students in dps? we only had one arab principal in the entire district and dps laid him off when they closed o.w. holmes. this is a message to us that we don't count either. my son goes to that new munger school and it's terrible. that principal doesn't know how to talk to us and i've had to go to act as an interpreter many times. i wish mr. raafat was back. we miss him.

  • Mark N Starla Traina

    DETROIT STUDENTS are as DUMB as CAVEMEN! It’s no wonder FORD and CHEVY left town. These Guys are still trying to figure out how to use the WHEEL!


    Find out about the NAAWP RADIO SHOW coming to a STATION near you!


    FACT: If ‘YOUNG BLACK THUGS” in DETROIT were required to Pass an IQ Test prior to Purchasing a GUN, non of the “YOUNG BLACK THUGS” in DETROIT would have one!

    FACT: Detroit is the 1st AMERICAN city to become a 3rd WORLD NATION!

    SPECIAL NOTE: The following American Cities and Towns are well on their way toward becoming 3rd WORLD COUNTRIES!

    2) CHICAGO
    3) ATLANTA
    5) JACKSON
    6) OAKLAND
    7) FLINT
    8) DENVER
    10) PHILLY
    11) ST. LOUIS
    12) SAN DIAGO
    14) WATTS
    16) NEW YORK
    17) BROOKLYN
    18) BOSTON


  • ButtWheat

    “Bankrupting Minority Students’ Futures” Detroit is 84.1 percent black. Does the title of this article mean that white, Hispanic and Oriental students are being put at a distinct disadvantage because they are the true “minorities” of the city?