Students in the Detroit Public Schools now have something in common with the Detroit Tigers: they’ve both been out on called strikes.
A week before the scheduled start of the school year, the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), upset at the Detroit Public Schools’ attempt to eliminate a budget deficit by reducing teacher benefits, voted to strike. A Detroit judge ordered lengthy negotiating sessions to encourage a deal before the first day of school, but progress was scarce; after a brief attempt to hold school without the striking teachers, administrators yielded to reality and canceled school.
Early in the strike, many painted the strike as an effort to improve education for the students. Variations of “this isn’t about the teachers” were a common refrain; DFT president Janna Garrison said, “What we’re fighting for is not only for ourselves, it’s for the students. The two are connected.” Perhaps that was believable while the strike was consuming only the last days of the teachers’ summer vacations, but as everyone now knows, the strike consumed much more than a summer vacation. And what was initially purported ultimately to be for the good the students is now harming everyone: the city, the district, the teachers – and especially the students.
The city of Detroit has been touting a push toward a renaissance; significant efforts have gone into renewing and rebuilding a city burdened by years of decline, neglect and mismanagement. Still, the construction and restoration has not yet stemmed the flow of people from the city. For the city to turn around its fortunes, it will need to attract a strong, vibrant population, at the heart of which ought to be families; to attract families, it will need strong schools to which parents want to send their children. Parents are not wooed by a district