Class-action lawsuit filed against Gov. Snyder over failing Detroit schools

One of more than 80 vacant schools in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.
One of more than 80 vacant schools in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

The Detroit Public Schools Board, which has been stripped of power for years, filed a class-action lawsuit against Gov. Rick Snyder and other state officials on Thursday over the deplorable condition of the city’s schools and education system.

Since the district has been under control of state-appointed emergency managers since 2009, the deficit has ballooned to more than $300 million, despite numerous school closures and other painful budget cuts.

“The treatment of these students by state officials since taking control of the school district in 1999, and aggravated by three recent consecutive emergency managers, has caused profound life-long damage to the students,” according to a statement by Thomas Bleakley, attorney for the plaintiffs.

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The lawsuit points out that schools are riddled with mold, bacteria, rodents, insects, exposed wiring and cold classrooms, all of which were confirmed by the city of Detroit during recent building inspections.

The condition of the buildings is causing serious threats to students’ welfare and safety, the suit states.

Students also are subjected to substandard education as the state relies more on uncertified teachers.

The suit alleges “unconditional violations” that deprive Detroit children of a decent education.

It’s the second lawsuit filed against Snyder this week. Hundreds of Flint residents also filed suit against Snyder and the state over the handling of the city’s water crisis.

DPS has about 95 schools and 47,000 students, down from nearly 200 schools and 163,000 students over the past 15 years.

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A report, entitled “A School District in Crisis,” questioned the effectiveness of the state’s emergency managers.

“The cumulative impact of them has been questionable at best,” the report states. “Despite modest improvements in test scores, enrollment has plummeted and schools have closed while the district’s financial situation has only worsened. Under emergency financial managers, the district has run at a budget deficit that now tops $300 million.”

The report was conducted by the nonpartisan Loveland Technologies.

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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.