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DeVos: Through the Eyes of a Detroit Student

via International Business Times

With the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos, there’s been a lot of light on Michigan. America wants to see the havoc Betsy DeVos has wreaked in Michigan, and specifically in my city, Detroit.

If that’s what you all want, who am I to deny you?

In Mar. 2016, with much community disapproval, bills 710 and 711 were rejected in the House.

These bills were supported by Republican and Democrat Senators, our Governor, our Mayor and most importantly the community. There was a lot written into these bills, but the most important was that the bills, “would have created a commission charged with overseeing the opening and closing of schools, as well as authorizing $720 million to bring DPS out of near-bankruptcy and giving operating control back to the local district, which had been run by state for years.” This gave parents and community members hope for the future of their schools.

Now, you may wonder why a bill like that is so important.

In Detroit, charter schools have no accountability. They open whenever they want, and close whenever they choose. If the school doesn’t perform well, they may close in the middle of the year. If the school starts receiving less students, they may close in the summer but forget to tell the parents until a week before school starts (University Yes! Academy). There is no oversight for Detroit Charter Schools, and yet over half of Detroit’s students attend them. 80% of these charters are for-profit, and benefit economically off of students who were promised “school choice”.

(Now let me say, I’m not against charter schools. I’m against unregulated charters who take advantage of parents looking for quality education.)

Unfortunately, Betsy DeVos and her lovely husband Dick DeVos weren’t too happy about businesses- oops I mean schools- being held to the same standards as…..schools. “So what did they do?”, you may be wondering. They did what any billionaires trying to save their business would do; they fought with money. The next 2 months they collectively spent $1.45 million paying Republicans in the House to reject and rewrite the bills. Thus, in March of 2016, the people of Detroit were once again beaten by money and power.

Now out of this deal there was a “compromise” bill that did much more damage than good. This bill allows for uncertified teachers is Detroit Public School classrooms. It calls for new teachers to be paid on merit, which has made DPS an even less desirable district to teach in. The bill states that any school in Detroit in the bottom 5% for three years in a row must be closed. And lastly, it allows Charter Schools to operate without accountability from anyone.

This has created a lack of resources for Detroit Public Schools, as well as a negative connotation with all Detroit schools.

Charter schools put on the persona that they perform much better than DPS schools, but statistically they often perform at the same level. Furthermore, even if they do perform better than public schools, they’re still performing far below the National level.

Arlyssa Heard, a charter school parent in Detroit believes, “charters have become functionally dysfunctional. They have the appearance of effectiveness, simply because they’re still running.”

Fast forward to Feb. 2017.

Parents of Detroit Public and Charter schools have received letters that their school is on the list of schools to be closed this year. The list includes 38 Michigan schools in total, 25 of which are in Detroit. Oh, and I think it’s very important to point out that the “must close” clause only counts for Detroit schools, ironically added into the same bill DeVos spent $1.45 million on. Out of those schools, we know from data collected from each school’s website, that about 16,000 (out of 18,000) of those students are black and brown students.

Where will 18,000 students go? What happens to those teachers and administrators? Isn’t there a better way to revive a neighborhood’s school than closing the doors completely?

In my neighborhood alone, the east side of Detroit, there are 9 schools on the list. 9 schools in one neighborhood will be shut down due to unsatisfactory test scores.

In Feb. 2016, Betsy DeVos claimed that DPS should just shut down because “parents don’t need DPS retread.”

Now, in Feb.  2017, this looks like she’s going through with her ideas for my city.

Students deserve better. Parents deserve better. I deserve better.

So ask me again what the DeVos family has done to my city.

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Imani Harris
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Imani Harris is a 17-year-old activist, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She is a Junior at Renaissance High School and enjoys singing, writing and reading. Harris fights for equality in every aspect, and never backs down from something she believes in.

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