Detroit Public Schools Weathering City’s Bankruptcy

In July, the city of Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy with an estimated $18 to $20 billion in debt. While cuts already have threatened benefits in Detroit, such as pensions for firefighters and pay cuts for police officers, the question remains—what does this mean for Detroit public schools?

“I suspect we will [feel an impact],” said Debbie Ake, president of the Organization of School Administrators and Supervisors (OSAS), AFSA Local 28, in Detroit. “This is the largest municipal bankruptcy in [U.S.] history. We have nothing to compare [it] to.”

Ake is most concerned about keeping the community alive and maintaining relationships with local businesses. “The biggest challenge administrators face,” she says, “is how to run with less money and fewer volunteers.” As the threat of unpaid bills continues to spread throughout the community, Ake fears local businesses will shy away from contributing to and partnering with district schools. “We don’t even know if some of these businesses will weather the bankruptcy.”

Lacking resources to bolster security in the face of Detroit’s growing number of empty houses that attract criminals and squatters, safety is another major concern. Even while parked on school property, Ake had the unfortunate experience of having the tires stolen off of her vehicle.

For now, Detroit’s public schools are weathering the storm and doing what they can with what they have. The timeline of Detroit’s financial future may be unclear; however, that won’t stop educators from fighting to keep their doors open and their hallways filled with students.