Corporate America and its servants in the Democratic and Republican parties care nothing for the education of Black, inner city school children, and the proof is in Detroit, for all to see. The State of Michigan, controlled, like every other state in the country, by business interests, has ordered Detroit to close down half of its public schools, and increase class sizes to 60 students. That’s double the number that any respectable educator considers suitable for classroom work, and tantamount to a declaration that Detroit’s public school students will not be provided an education. In a modern society, this is the equivalent of declaring Detroit – an overwhelmingly Black metropolis – a failed state.
This racist outrage is blamed on a $327 million school budget deficit, just as when the public schools were decimated twice before in recent years, eliminating 79 schools and reducing enrollment to about 84,000 students. Many of those public schools were then sold to private charter school companies. With every assault on public education, charter schools multiplied. Now 54,000 Detroit students attend charter schools, and even before the current crisis, the corporate enemies of public education were gleefully predicting that charters would overtake public school enrollment by around 2015 – which would make Detroit the second major American city in which charters outnumber public schools.
The other city is New Orleans, where 70 percent of the students attend charter schools, the highest proportion in the nation. New Orleans and Detroit have something else in common: They have lost more population than any other U.S. cities. And if that is not by design, then why are so many rich white people so happy about it?
The rulers of America have decided that predominantly Black cities are to become relics of the nation’s past. In New Orleans, they had a hurricane to help them with their ethnic cleansing, but elsewhere, public policies must be crafted that make the cities uninhabitable for much of the existing Black population. Sometimes gentrification does the trick, but one needs lots of affluent white people to push Black folks out of town, and it takes time. But Detroit is to be emptied out in a hurry, by doubling classroom size and utterly ruining the public schools. Then, the education entrepreneurs and hedge fund managers and billionaires can build the kind of charter school system they want, with the kind of children they want, and without the teachers unions, which they definitely do not want.
The privatizers always claim that they have only the interests of the kids at heart. But if that were the case, they would never even consider doubling classroom size to 60 students, and keeping it that way for at least the next four years – during which time very few students would learn anything. After four years of deliberate torture of children, lots of those kids and their parents will be gone – which is an important object of this cruel exercise. And, if the privatizers have their way, the teachers unions will be busted. Then, who will be left to demand, as Detroit's teachers have repeatedly done, that classrooms be small enough for students to have at least a chance to learn?