(Courtesy of The Trifter)
As many of you have probably heard by now Detroit Public Schools would like to close 23 of their schools. There are 194 schools currently, so this would account for 11% of the schools there. As horrible as it seems this sounds more like a calculated move to make DPS more viable than it is any real reflection on the conditions of life in Detroit though. The closest city in the nation in population to Detroit is San Jose. Getting hard data on how many schools are in that district though is a lot easier said than done.
The Dallas Independent School District though, is a bit more forthcoming. They have 225 schools in their district, and around 300,000 more residents than Detroit. This sounds about right, in fact if Detroit can pull off these closures without overcrowding at the existing schools, which probably will not be an issue because enrollment has been down for a while anyway, this could lead to a more efficient school system. The only downside to this is the obvious depletion of talent and the work force from DPS though. We’re talking about laying off 600 teachers, and a $303 million deficit.
At the same time, what is happening in Detroit still is not that much worse than it is elsewhere in the country though. In fact I was able to find an interesting article about a potential $700 million deficit in the Los Angeles Unified School District. They have 635 schools. Chicago Public Schools is short $475 million. They have over 600 schools as well. Even Virginia Beach, a smaller district in comparison with over 70 schools, was talking about closing schools.
So the question becomes, as usual, whether or not Detroit can afford to take such a hit because what happens elsewhere in the nation that isn’t news, seems to be of that much more of a profound occurrence there. If you look throughout history, manufacturing has disappeared from the Rust Belt dating all the way back to the early seventies yet some cities were able to press forward while others were stuck. Youngstown was one of the first cities to really get hit, but other cities like Pittsburgh seems to have found a way to move on. Detroit though, has never really gotten past that initial blow.
You can’t minimize the plight of Detroit Public Schools, that district has been in trouble for a while and has faced some serious challenges in the last decade or so. But Detroit needs to take aggressive steps to get its house in order. What may happen at DPS, as their plight is reflective of so many other infrastructural challenges the city has faced, is but one more reminder of what the city needs to do to become viable again. If the tax base is not there, and the density of the schools is but a reflection of the larger physical emptiness that has taken over the city, those schools may eventually go anyway …