Saturday, February 12, 2005

What Is Going On In Detroit?

The Detroit Free Press is announcing that 34 Detroit public schools will be closing in June of this year. About 10,000 students will be affected.

But the news gets worse:

In the next five years, the Detroit Public Schools must cut more than $560 million in expenses. In the next three years, the district predicts enrollment will drop by about 40,000 students from its current enrollment of 140,000; another 60 to 75 schools will have to close.

"We now have half as many students as we did in 1970 and nearly the same number of buildings," said district Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley. "From a cost standpoint, it doesn't make sense. With these school closings, our district will become more efficient and more effective."

We can accept the fact that some schools need to close. The number of students served by the system is declining. There is, after all, a finite amount of resources with which to maintain the schools and pay staff.

But we do have a major concern.

Only one high school is on the "hit" list, Chadsey High. The curious thing is that this school has had some $2.2 million in recent renovations.

Even more curious is the fact that ten of the elementary schools that are set to close have each had over $1 million worth of renovations. Two of them have had substantially more: Dewey Center for Urban Education received $1.8 million in new construction, and the District spent $1.5 million in overhauls over at Ferry Elementary.

Certainly, the District has known for some time that the pupil enrollments were declining. If they are spending that kind of money of schools with declining enrollment, we wonder what other things that the Detroit Public School system has spent the taxpayer's money on?

Perhaps if the money had been spent with more care, some of this pain could have been lessoned.

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