‘DPS has not been fixed by the state’: Detroit schools seek forensic audit

© Rebecca Cook
Detroit Public Schools have been run by a state-appointed emergency manager since 1999, and the district has faced massive amounts of strife as a result, but teachers are going to fight back in court, even if they have to pay for it.

Detroit Public Schools (DPS) teachers are hoping to figure out who is responsible for their financial woes. The district has frequently had to ask the state for more money just to break even, but now educators hope to figure out exactly where the blame actually lies.

The school board has not had control over its own finances in 17 years, so educators are demanding a forensic audit to find out where the money that was given to the district has gone.

Reverend David Alexander Bullock, founder of Change Agent Consortium, told RT that a forensic audit is necessary because, “The State of Michigan has run Detroit Public Schools for over a decade, and so if there is a financial crisis, that’s a financial crisis that has been perpetuated, that has been magnified and has unfolded under state control.

When the state took control of the district in 1999, it had a surplus of nearly $100 million. Since then, the district has struggled to stay afloat financially and now has some of the worst test scores in the state.

State officials have refused to fund a forensic audit, however. When asked about initiating one, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told the Detroit News, “Our books are open. I’ve said that from the first day we got here. I want it to be open and accessible and I would welcome an audit, but we don’t have the money to pay for it.

Some state officials believe that an audit isn’t necessary to move forward. Representative Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) told the St. Louis Dispatch that, “It doesn’t matter to me today who’s to blame. Assigning blame doesn’t solve it.

Bullock explained that the audit must be conducted because “we need to establish who’s responsible for the crisis,” adding, “the State of Michigan came in and took over the Detroit Public School System over a decade ago under the guise of political corruption – the school board couldn’t get it done, it needed to be taken over by the state and the state was supposed to fix it. Now fast forward, there isn’t going to be a DPS.

As part of a plan put forward by the State House of Representatives, a bill was passed allocating $500 million to restructure the district, which is currently in debt to the tune of roughly $3 billion, WLNS reported. In addition, the State Senate has passed a $715 million aid package to restructure the district, according to Michigan radio.

Nevertheless, pumping billions of dollars into DPS has not solved its problems.

At the end of the day, there is still not even money to revitalize the Detroit Public Schools,” Bullock told RT, adding, “Students are getting a bad educational product, the teachers’ union is basically being busted.

With the state refusing to pay for the audit, the educators have taken it upon themselves to raise the funds to finance it. Teachers set up a lemonade stand last week to raise part of the estimated $500,000 needed, according to Michigan radio.

DPS has faced its fair share of difficulties. In the 2015–2016 academic year, its schools closed twice due to protests from teachers who feared that they wouldn’t be paid. Despite their financial worries, the district has often received aid from the state, such as emergency funding in March that kept the schools afloat through June 30.

Meanwhile, profiteers have been using the school to make a quick buck, such as a vendor who was indicted on kickback and bribery charges for a scheme that is estimated to have made $1 million, the Detroit Free Press reported.