Detroit Public Schools Put the Fun in Dysfunctional

Townhall.comby Marybeth Hicks

There just isn’t enough column space to describe the myriad dysfunction of the Detroit Public School system, much less consider its options for improvement.

To wit: Recently, acting Superintendent Theresa Gueyser filed a complaint against former president of the Board of Education, Otis Mathis, for repeatedly fondling himself during private meetings with her.

In response, board member Rev. David Murray said, "It happens to a lot of young men. They engage in behavior they feel is harmless and it's offensive to certain people.” Mr. Mathis is 55, so you wonder how old one has to be before Mr. Murray expects him to outgrow his propensity for public lewdness.

Meanwhile, the Board of Education is at odds with the system’s Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb over the drastic measures he believes are necessary to salvage what little seems to remain of a working public school infrastructure.

Just what drastic measures has he implemented? In February he ended the longtime practice of "social promotion" in Detroit public schools, that pesky habit of advancing to a higher grade students who have not mastered the material in a lower grade.

Some people believe this practice is the only reason roughly 25 percent of Detroit’s children graduate from high school at all. If they had to actually earn a diploma, many folks believe that rate would be much lower. (Insert groan here).

Mr. Bobb also wants to close crumbling school buildings and cut spending so that the system’s budget can operate in the black. Talk about drastic. Who ever heard of such a thing, especially in Detroit?

Rather than spend his time figuring out how to educate Detroit’s youth within the confines of a sound fiscal plan, Mr. Bobb is stuck in court battling the board over his decisions. (This is the very same board that actually needs an emergency financial manager because the system it supposedly oversees is broke and broken).

When it comes to educating Detroit’s children, Mr. Bobb might be the only responsible adult in the game.

This week, in an effort to get Detroit parents to be more responsible for their children, Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy has proposed jail time for those who miss scheduled parent-teacher conferences.

Under a three-strikes and you’re out plan, parents would have three chances to schedule and attend one teacher conference. If they don’t go, they’ll sit in jail for three days, presumably to think about how to be a more responsible parent. (Or maybe they’ll be thinking about who is taking care of the kids while they’re in jail). More: