Motor City Muckraker to focus on education, Mayor Duggan’s administration in 2016

Carstens Elementary school closed in 2011l. Photo by Steve Neavling.
Carstens Elementary school closed in 2011l. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Motor City Muckraker spent a year investigating Detroit’s beleaguered, mismanaged Fire Department in 2015, leading to reforms and the ousting of the top fire officials.

In 2016, we are shifting our focus to the dysfunctional education system and Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration, which includes the Land Bank, Police Department and services to lower-income neighborhoods that continue to be neglected.

When we asked readers what they most wanted covered, they overwhelmingly said education. And it’s no wonder.

Detroit Public Schools has one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation, with more than a third of the students dropping out. Since the state initially took over DPS 15 years ago, the budget deficit has skyrocketed and dozens of schools have closed.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder created the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) in 2012 to reform the state’s lowest-performing schools, but Detroit’s EAA has since become the subject of a sweeping federal investigation into corruption.

Many charter schools also are failing and performing no better than DPS.

Our children are our future, and those most impacted are disproportionately black and lower income. Students who don’t graduate are more likely to commit crimes and rely on government assistance, repeating a cycle that has kept Detroit among the poorest cities in America.

The failure of schools has led to an exodus to the suburbs and has discouraged families from moving to the city because their education options are scarce.

As part of our series on education, Motor City Muckraker will highlight several families’ struggles with schools throughout the year.

Mayor Mike Duggan
Mayor Mike Duggan

Also impacting the city’s growth are inadequate services for residents who have the highest tax rates in the state. When Mayor Duggan was campaigning in 2013, he pledged over and over again that “Every neighborhood has a future.”

But that’s far from the truth. The city’s most endangered neighborhoods have the poorest services, from inadequate police and fire protection to a failure to remove blight and fix water mains and pothole-riddled roads.

The Detroit Land Bank, which is responsible for demolishing thousands of homes a year, has come under fire because of escalating costs paid to construction companies favored by the mayor, who in return received campaign donations.

Duggan also has one of the most expensive administrations in Detroit history, and it includes nepotism, convicts, long-time political supporters and former Kwame Kilpatrick officials.

Detroit policeThe Police Department is one of the least transparent departments in the city and has routinely ignored complaints from residents about racial discrimination and constitutional violations. Police Chief James Craig has also tricked the public with crime statistics, murder clearance rates and response times by changing how that information is collected.

There’s a collective amnesia among reporters who have forgotten that Duggan was the subject of at least two FBI investigation, one while he was assistant Wayne County executive and one while he was prosecutor. He also was sued twice for firing whistleblowers who told authorities that employees were forced to work on politics while at work at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

Allegations of corruption have surfaced since he became mayor in 2014. The allegations include colluding with contractors, getting his son a cozy job and secretly making deals with billionaires.

Over the year, we will continue to cover the Fire Department and other breaking news.

Have any tips? Email Steve Neavling at sneavling@gmail.com. All tips will remain anonymous.

We look forward to hearing your feedback.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.