AFT President says lawmakers poison-pilled Detroit Public Schools

Posted at 7:32 AM, Sep 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-07 07:32:01-04

Detroit Public Schools is hiring new teachers about as fast as teachers are leaving.

We were told there could be about 200 unfilled teacher openings as the district starts the new school year.

“It is top priority to have a highly qualified certified teacher in front of all our classrooms,” said Alycia Meriweather, Interim Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District.

It is a challenging task.  

Teachers want better pay and improved working conditions. A teacher who started his career in Detroit Public Schools 7 years ago makes about $36,000 a year now.  District leaders say the the bill passed by lawmakers underfunded the district by about $50 million dollars.
Last school year, teachers forced school closures as they protested deplorable building conditions and a shortage of teachers that left kids in classes literally teaching themselves. Eight schools where teachers will be asked to work don’t even meet code.

Union leaders accuse lawmakers of underfunding the district on purpose because they have connections to a group that has said if a school or district can’t compete and perform, it should be eliminated.  The private sector, or charter schools can potentially improve education in these situations.

The group the union says is behind this is the Great Lakes Education Project.

"Many of the proponents of DPS have complained that they can’t compete and can’t improve.  That is certainly not our doing and our wish. We want all public schools to either get better or close.  In the end it is about creating opportunities for kids,” said Gary Naeyaert, Executive Director of GLEP.

Naeyaert says when lawmakers gave the district $617 million in support, it gave the district a fresh start.
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President, says GLEP really wants to see the overall privatization of schools.

“They poison pilled this bill so much, so they could try to say a few years later, ‘See we told you so.' That is what the Devos family wants because they support the privatization of education,” said Weingarten

The Devos family helps fund GLEP.

 Weingarten came to Detroit as the district and teachers negotiated a contract. She says until a contract is reached there will be no way to address the teacher shortage. Teachers are considering a tentative deal.