Today marks day three of a nine day march from Detroit to Lansing that parents and activists dissatisfied with the lack of accountability in the Motor City's schools are taking part in. The 90 mile walk down Grand River is in protest specifically of Gov. Rick Snyder's new school reform plan, which calls for the splitting of Detroit Public Schools into two districts: One that will exist to pay off the debt and one that will educate kids.
The publicly elected DPS will be in charge of the debt paying district (i.e. have no say over actual education decisions) and an appointed board will reign over the district where students actually attend classes.
"Parents need a voice. They say they don’t have enough input or community control at their kids' schools," WXYZ explained
in a news segment detailing why the march was occuring.
While some may point to the plethora of school options in Detroit and say parents have agency through the choices (you know the expression, vote with your feet), the reality is none of the current options in Detroit have an elected school board — charter school boards are appointed and Detroit Public Schools has been under Emergency Financial Management since 2011 (on and off since 1999) — which is a big reason parents have decided to march.
"Parents expect decisions affecting their children's education to be made by those with connections to the community that their school serves," Hilary Young, a Detroit charter school parent told the station,stating that her daughter's school didn't have a math teacher because the out-of-state charter management company running the school had determined it wasn't in the budget.
Another women with a child in a DPS school told WZYZ that her child has no English teacher. In this scenario the onus is on the state appointed Emergency Manager.
The march is being led by 482 Forward, a citywide education organizing network, which explained in a press release for the event that "there are 12 charter school authorizers disproportionately operating in the city of Detroit, with no oversight from residents in the city. This oversight has increased the debt burden on Detroit students and lead to inequitable opening and closing of schools leaving some neighborhoods with no schools at all."
Once in Lansing the parents hope to influence lawmakers to reconsider the current plan. They hope the state will take responsibility for the debt that was incurred under state appointed emergency management and that legislation can be passed that maintains parent and community voice in Detroit's school options.
Updates on the marchers can be found here