Richard A. Fowler
DETROIT—Before the courts had a chance to rule, AFT Detroit (the Detroit Federation of Teachers, the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees, and the Detroit Federation of Paraprofessionals), community members, parents and the American Federation of Teachers reached a settlement with the Detroit Public Schools Community District in a lawsuit filed last year over deplorable school conditions throughout the district. While not perfect, this agreement is the beginning of providing community residents, parents and educators with a fully accountable and transparent way to log and address building complaints and safety hazards.
“For almost a decade, students, parents and educators have been exposed to, and have fought, increasingly deplorable learning and working conditions in Detroit’s public schools. From rodents running across backpacks, to computer labs without access to the Internet, the students and families of Detroit have suffered enough at the hands of Gov. Rick Snyder and his handpicked emergency managers,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Under this settlement and with the newly elected school board, the students and families of Detroit will finally have safe and welcoming public schools with the conditions necessary for learning,” Weingarten said. “It establishes a clear process to ensure health risks are identified, prioritized and remediated. This settlement is a result of parents, the community and AFT Detroit coming together and fighting for high-quality public education.”
As part of the settlement, an oversight committee will be formed. This five-member committee—two members from DPSCD, one parent, one teacher and one nonteacher—will be responsible for enforcing the settlement agreement and will ensure that all building repair requests are handled promptly. The settlement provides a mechanism for enforcement that can compel the district to act on work orders logged by parents and educators.
It also requires the district to generate a monthly maintenance report identifying every work order request received and the status of each work order.
“This agreement brings Detroit closer to the great public schools the Detroit Federation of Teachers has been fighting for,” said DFT Interim President Ivy Bailey. “Beyond just educating our students, we have served as building maintenance, plumbers, pest control, bricklayers and even painters for our classrooms and our decaying school buildings. This settlement will finally allow us to turn the page and devote our time to educating and enriching the lives of our students and their families.
“It will provide the accountability and transparency necessary for ensuring the Detroit Public Schools Community District becomes the world-class system it should be. Coupled with our newly elected school board and the removal of the state-appointed emergency manager, this settlement will give parents and educators the resources necessary to advocate for their students and the communities they serve.”
DAEOE President Ruby Newbold, who is an AFT vice president, said, “Our school buildings should be enriching students, not making them sick. This legal settlement will finally create a pathway to improve school conditions and return the joy of teaching and learning to the classroom.”
“It’s a beautiful feeling,” said Christopher Robinson, a DPSCD parent and a plaintiff in the case. “This settlement gives us a tool to address any conditions that would pose a threat to our students and their educators. Finally, we are one step closer to getting our students the world-class education they deserve.”