Detroit Public Schools’ future looks bleak

We should learn from financial problems plaguing Detroit’s public schools before it’s too late.

Martha Pietruszewski

A was incredibly lucky to go to a public school where — despite occasional budget issues —  we still had an orchestra, a band and a robust theater program. 
 
 
However, across the country, many students are not as lucky. Out of 97 public schools in Detroit, 94 recently closed due to teacher protests over schools’ budgetary failures.
 
 
In particular, these teachers decried the district’s inability to pay its teachers over the summer due to grave financial problems. 
 
 
While they’re not as troubled as Detroit’s, Minnesota’s public schools aren’t perfect, either. Reading proficiency among different racial groups are far from equitable levels, for example. 
 
 
Budgeting presents another problem. From 2014 to 2015, approximately 42.1 percent of general fund-spending went toward K-12 education, compared to just 7.2 percent toward higher education. Sadly, the figure of 41.2 percent is spread thin when you consider the broad scope of monetary need across the state’s elementary, middle and secondary schools.
 
 
How can we prevent Detroit’s budget problem from happening in Minnesota? The obvious solution is to make sure that Minnesota’s teachers will always get paid, no matter what. 
 
 
However, guaranteeing  teacher pay doesn’t mean providing them a meager income. Schools can tighten spending by targeting unimportant money drains. For example, my high school probably didn’t need to rennovate the football stadium for our losing team, but who am I to say? 
 
 
We must also ensure we treat teachers with respect. How many times have you texted or tweeted in class? If you pay attention to what your teachers say and attempt to foster a relationship with them, you’re likely to have a more substantiative educational experience.
 
 
As sentimental as it may sound, teachers truly are the backbone of our society. They are the ones who cultivate our knowledge, and they’re often there to provide us support even after the school day ends. 
 
 
During my freshman year of college, my calculus class was going miserably, so I reached out to a former high school math teacher for help. While I may not have done well in calculus in the end, I was amazed at the willingness of my former teacher to help me. You can’t put a price on that kind of interaction.
 
 
Luckily for Detroit, school is back in session. As of Tuesday this week, the school district has assured teachers that they will be paid during the summer. 
 
 
Still, who’s to say this issue won’t arise again in the future? The United States’ school system lags far behind those in countries such as South Korea and Finland. A longterm solution to budget problems like Detroit’s — albeit timely and invasive — would be to overhaul the American education system and reform it to be more consistent with educational systems abroad.
 
 
In the meantime, let’s learn from the Detroit situation in order to prevent similar things from happening. Students have a right learn and go to school, no matter what.  
 
 
Martha Pietruszewski welcomes comments at [email protected]