Tag Archives: bureaucracy

A $40,000 SUV: the Natural Choice for a Dying District

11 Aug

Sometimes you need to search for the incredulous. Other times, it hits you in the face.

A news article I just stumbled upon could have been found on Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Titled “DPS’ chief Roberts defends purchase of $40,000 SUV with district funds,” I doubled checked my news source. Yup. Detroit Free Press. Doubled checked the acronym. Yup. Detroit Public Schools.

The same DPS that is $327 million in debt? The one that’s closing half its schools? And what about that new budget?

Oh, that’s right. When the old guy failed to resolve the $327 million in debt in five years, we (or should I say the Honorable Governor Snyder, who took away Michigan citizens’ voting power)  replaced him with a guy who talks about $40,000 SUV’s as if every man, woman, and infant baby in Detroit could purchase one.

“”I’m driving the heck out of it.”

Haha! You’re a funny man, Roy Roberts!

There she is, Big, Shiny, and Oh-so-necessary.

Roy Roberts and his jocular manner regarding his new purchase with district funds reflects on his ability to act as DPS’ “Emergency Financial Manager.” The lone wolf (dare I use the word?) with ALL THE POWER thanks to Snyder’s new law. Did I mention he’s an ex GM executive? Oh, and his measly contract of one year only allows him a salary of $250,000.

How strange.

For more info on Michigan’s latest snake:

“Roy Roberts New Financial Manager For Detroit Schools”

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A Near Impossible Task: Saving the Detroit Public Schools District

25 Feb

The Detroit Public Schools District is closing half its schools.

This is part of the current state-approved deficit-elimination plan drawn up by emergency financial manger, Robert Bobb. The Detroit News predicts an influx of 60 plus students per classroom as a result of the closures (Huffington Post, see source below). While Robert Bobb assured the press today that there would not be 60 plus students per classroom, he did not give an alternate figure. Many Detroit schools are already overpopulated and understaffed, with 30 plus students per class.

Does this make Robert Bobb the bad guy?

In November 2010, Bobb lobbied for the $400 million in state tobacco revenue to be redirected to the DPS district. He hoped to convince state legislators that the money was needed to dig schools out of their current poor academic and financial states. If the money was not granted, Bobb argued, DPS would face severe, detrimental, “draconian” cuts. Bobb needed a political leader to back his proposal. No one stepped forward.

Fast-forward to February. Detroit Public Schools are failing academic standards; the vast majority are not making AYP. The city and state are strapped financially and continuing to hurt academically. What does the state do?

The state orders Robert Bobb to immediately implement his proposed deficit-elimination plan that includes closing half the district’s schools and consolidating academic operations. Bobb needed to find some way to do his job; the state had ordered him to reduce the $327 million deficit in five years. Initially, legislators demanded that he balance the debt in two years. Lucky for Bobb, they threw him peanuts.

Robert Bobb’s job is admittedly not easy to accomplish. Where does one make cuts from a district already plunged in academic and financial straits? Schools have already bumped up class size, laid-off staff and faculty, and minimized academic and extracurricular programs. How does one cut fat from bones?

Bobb clearly does not have a good solution. The state is shirking responsibility by passing off the impossible task to one man. Bobb himself has admitted that the proposal is not good for students academically or educationally.

So why is this plan approved?

The plan has been approved because politics have overthrown the responsibility of government. It is the responsibility of a government to protect its people, especially those people who cannot defend themselves (i.e. children). While reducing the deficit is included in this description, the disregard of an equal education opportunity for over 70,000 plus students is NOT. Just because a plan exists that shows “zero” figures to the eyes of politicians in five years does not mean this plan should be automatically endorsed. Rather than simply look at numbers, politicians should look into the eyes of the children they are cheating. A classroom of 30 students is difficult to manage, difficult to ensure academic progress. A great teacher in the best circumstances can reach many of the 30. Teaching in a class and ensuring the academic success of 60 students, many who are placed at-risk from living in a low-SES, high poverty district, is like being asked to cut a $327 million deficit in five years in a district that already cannot compete financially or academically with its suburbs. The state is asking Robert Bobb and the district’s teachers to achieve a near impossible task.

What is the solution? While I cannot offer any solidified plan, I hope that our state rethinks its current agenda with the Detroit Public Schools. We must remember that schools serve children; equal education for our kids is the goal of our schools. Closing half the schools and jamming 60 kids in a classroom is not a service to our kids. Legislators and policymakers need to undertake the task of creating a new deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of throwing the weight of the world on one man’s shoulders. They need to sit down, work hard, and develop a long-term deficit-elimination plan for the DPS district, instead of asking for immediate, impossible results. If our legislators can work toward a new, less severe proposal, Detroit schools will still struggle, but they will struggle less each year. We cannot resign the Detroit schools to the mercy of the economy. We need to rebuild them. We cannot give up on our state’s neediest children; we must rise to the challenge and help them.

Bobb is set to re-work a new budget, due to the state by May 31st. While I lack confidence in one man to solve all the deficit problems of an impoverished district, I’m rooting for him. Better yet, perhaps our state will come to its senses and form a committee to help him in his endeavor. This is the least Detroit’s kids deserve.

Huffington Post Source:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/16/robert-bobb-400-million-for-detroit-schools_n_784353.html