As a teacher, I know that education is the key to anyone’s future. Everyone got to where they are today at least partially because of their schooling. Many can remember a teacher who inspired them and helped shape who they are. I chose to work in Detroit Public Schools because I believe in public education as a necessary part of ensuring a bright future for the next generation and for our city. Everyone deserves opportunities to succeed. It starts in our schools. And we have a lot of work to do to improve them. I continue to fight for DPS, because I believe that the children and teachers of Detroit deserve a quality public school system.
As you may know, a lot has happened in DPS these past several months. Earlier this winter, Detroit teachers used sickouts to draw attention to the deplorable conditions in our schools. We spoke out about issues like mold in our hallways, overcrowded classrooms, leaking ceilings, broken drinking fountains, and unsanitary food. Our students and parents raised their voices, too - about their disintegrating textbooks and classrooms that vary from sweltering heat to freezing cold. Even in my school, where conditions are better than many, mice run through the halls.
These problems are not new. I've seen them since I first started teaching. As teachers, we've endured so much for our students, but we cannot wait any longer - we want change now. We want decent buildings with sufficient resources. And we want to make Detroit Public Schools a desirable place to work. There are around 200 teaching vacancies and that will only increase until we start seeing solutions.
On February 3rd, in part because of our actions, Darnell Earley resigned as the Emergency Manager of DPS. Earley represents a greater tide of antidemocratic actions by Michigan state government. As the former Emergency Manager of Flint, he signed off on the switch to Flint River water, and he similarly mismanaged our schools.
At right: Marni and her fellow DPS teachers putting out their message!
However, the fight for local control continues - as the new DPS “Transition Manager” (much like an Emergency Manager), Judge Steven Rhodes continues the work (or lack thereof) of Earley's administration. Still, Earley's resignation is significant - it confirms that we have people power. Moreover, the teachers and community members of DPS were able to convince Judge Rhodes to appoint Alycia Meriweather, an incredible leader and educator from Detroit Public Schools, to be the Interim Superintendent. And just last week, when DPS was at risk of shutting down this spring, Michigan Legislature passed a $48.7 million emergency funding bill that will allow our schools to stay open, our students to attend school and graduate, and our staff to get paid.
These are steps in the right direction, but we have to sustain and grow pressure for a better regional education system. Now, Michigan lawmakers must pass a larger package that will provide long-term sustainability for our schools.
Please continue spreading the word. This fight is not about union politics or keeping children away from the classroom. It is about Detroit's need for a school system that educates its children. It is about the teachers and staff of Detroit deserving the respect and resources needed to do our jobs. And, it is about getting our voices heard and the return of local control of our schools. We can win this fight, but we need the community to join us.
I am so proud that DJJ has chosen to stand in solidarity with DPS. It is so moving to see my Jewish community working for the rights of my DPS community. If you want to join DJJ in supporting DPS through education and action, reach out about joining the Organizing Team!
Below: DJJ members rallying with Marni and DPS teachers, students, and families!
You can learn more about these issues by:
Watching a newly created talk show called "The Teachers' Lounge" - featuring DPS teachers and union member including Leslie Carlis-Piper, William Weir, and myself. You can catch it on WHPR Comcast Channel 91 every Thursday from 8:15 to 8:45pm. It is available online as well here. We interview not only different union, community, and school board members, but also teachers, parents, students, and public officials. We aim to dialogue about what the future of DPS may hold, and how the community can take a part in shaping and saving it. It is also a call in show, where you can voice any questions or comments you may have about the conversation.
- Reading this article to get some first-hand perspective from DPS students. It's really incredible to see some of our most passionate high school students speaking out and organizing for their schools. They are amazing!
- Signing up for my regular email updates on DPS by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Marni Falk is a teacher at Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School in DPS. She is a member of the Detroit Federation of Teachers. She has been active in DJJ since the beginning and is a member of the Organizing Team.