On Jan. 25, students at various Detroit Public Schools took part in a walk out to protest conditions in their district and support their teachers. In addition to Detroit International Academy, students from Cass, Renaissance and CMA participated.
DPS teachers have been arranging sick-outs to protest various issues within the district. These include low pay and lack of benefits, overcrowded classes, unsuitable buildings and learning environments, supply shortage and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to split the district in two.
Senior Hawa Rahman said she does not believe officials are applying enough effort towards fixing the facilities.
“They are strongly affecting children's lives, they're jeopardizing the future of our nation and our world,” she said. “Getting students to walk out should be the first step in showing those people in charge that we have the right to demand for a proper, suitable educational environment and that our lives are important.”
The conditions in which DPS students and teachers are required to function have recently gained national attention. Buildings without proper heating or cooling mean students are forced to wear coats inside during the winter, and possibly suffer heat exhaustion during the summer. Mold grows in classrooms. Plumbing and rainwater leak in, causing walls and floors to buckle. There is also a shortage of proper instructional materials, including outdated textbooks.
Senior Nazifa Chowdhury said: “It's just not fair. Instead of receiving quality education like we were promised, we have teachers and students on sick-outs because who can teach or learn in the condition we're in? In DPS schools, there's toilet water dripping on the students' heads and in the others, the real worry is for them to study and pass a test. This is what we should be doing. Focusing on our education.”
As of January 2016, DPS is approximately $3.5 billion in debt. The district currently owes back payments several areas, including retiree funds. A $16.6 million debt is owed to teachers, who agreed to loan part of their paychecks to assist the district. DPS is on track to run out of money by the spring.
DPS receives about $7,000 per student in funding due to the Per-Pupil Foundation Allowance. In previous years, DPS has been granted extension periods to pay off the huge debt, designating part of the student-based funding for this purpose. Current DPS students are suffering partly because their funding is being used to pay off roll-over debt that began to accumulate years ago.
0224 DIA student walkout: Protest signs created by Detroit International Academy senior Hawa Rahman, who said she does not believe officials are applying enough effort towards fixing the facilities. CREDIT: Pink Lady Press