Detroit Public Schools through the eyes of a veteran teacher

Most American’s would consider education as a high priority. However, the fiscal crisis Detroit Public Schools is facing and the morale of teachers is at an all-time low. The district’s budget deficit spikes at a projection of $335 million dollars by the end of the 2016 school year and threats of running out of money has teachers on edge. Well-orchestrated sickouts, idled almost all Detroit Public schools for a nearly two week time period. From leaking roofs, missing floor tiles, mold and insect and rodent infested overcrowded classrooms, teachers hit the streets to bring awareness to this plus a host of other issues they faced on a daily basis. For public employees like teachers, striking is illegal in Michigan. So for many teachers, this was the only way to get their concerns heard; to call in sick. “Although no solutions have been reached, awareness was brought about,” says Jennifer Jackson a twenty-six year DPS teacher. “People did not know how bad our working conditions were inside the schools and many of us as teachers were unaware of what other teachers were dealing with in their school buildings as well.”

Although policies or solutions to fix the problems in DPS haven’t been solved, the sickouts definitely attracted national attention. Spain Elementary-Middle School stood as the model of how bad conditions had gotten as some schools. The gymnasium has recently been condemned and the playground has toxic steam coming from the ground, forcing recess to the hallways. But the crumbling school received star power help from Ellen Degeneres, Justin Beiber and Lowes. Together they donated $500,000 to repairing the school, including $50,000 in new computers and a $100 Visa gift card to every teacher and staff member. Additionally, Justin Beiber pledged that he would donate a dollar of every ticket sold for his Detroit concert in April.

The sickouts not only brought attention to the conditions of the school building and oversize classrooms, it also made the public aware that teachers had been going into their own pockets to buy school supplies. “Teachers were sick of buying soap, toilet paper and sanitizer,” Jackson said. “It’s like being in an abusive relationship, you don’t know how bad it is until you step back.” But celebrity did not overshadow the effort and support for DPS schools. The local community also stepped up to provide much-needed school supplies. Local news station, WXYZ partnered with local restaurant chain Leo’s Coney Island to collect donated schools supplies. So much was donated, a warehouse was needed to collect and sort everything.

It’s yet to be seen what will happen with the Detroit Public School district. The future is unclear. But the outpour of support clearly shows that there’s a cheering squad for its success.