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.

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.

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.

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.

  • Third World Detroit

    This is what it’s going to take to achieve equity – a big, juicy, embarrassing lawsuit with crippling financial penalties.

    Perhaps Attorney Bleakley will next consider suing the city for failing to provide the neighborhoods where DPS students reside with basic services, while lavishing services on downtown and Midtown, thus deliberately creating a toxic environment unfit for habitation for the majority of residents and inflicting serious financial harm.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      How? Why? The schools were crap before, how does the EM turn them around with no money after they had been looted and neglected for the better part of 30 years.

      How does that work ?

      You know they had something like 200-300 fake teachers, all getting paid the highest wages right? Every school had a 90k slush fund of a fake teacher. Thats a fact, that only came out under the EM, the DPS and every principal the accountants, the superintendent were all in on it.

      Money was budgeted for paint, desks, new roofs etc, it was all stolen. It was common in the 1990s to not have toilet paper. Anyone who could take, was taking.

      You fool, it WAS a toxic environment long before EM.

      • Dongald Trumpenis

        History, as re-written by a Snyder lap-dog.

      • Third World Detroit

        A state superintendent of education publicly reported being “haunted” by the conditions he observed while touring DPS years ago.

        That wasn’t sufficient to move the equity needle.

        A big, juicy, embarrassing lawsuit isn’t a riot.

        Let’s hope it’s enough.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    I am curious why this is not seen as a failure of detroit, or big government, and not an EM called in after mismanagement for 30 years or more. Then when they came in the city was hemorrhaging people and money BEFORE the housing collapse. Then the housing collapse made detroit the poster child for rust belt industrial decline in the western hemisphere.

    So what would be better with out an EM?

    Everything would be worse, almost for sure, it would be equally bad surroundings, but more red tape, more politics, more self interest, slower to react etc. They would run schools 3/4 empty in order to keep teachers on the payroll. The DPS sees the schools as a union job creator and affirmative action job machine, not as a way to educate the public to make the city better. Its for connected people to hook up friends and family first and foremost.

  • javierjuanmanuel

    huh?

    Has it really been since 1999? If so, why does it only matter now?

    If they cared about the kids, and not their pensions, the whole thing would have been rebooted in the early 80s.

  • Harry Palmer

    Ouch. Hasn’t been a “relentlessly positive ” week for Snyder and his EM’s, has it?
    maybe he should have thought it through, before ramming the same, “referendum proof” EM law back in right after the voter’s tossed it out.

  • Harry Palmer

    Ouch. Hasn’t been a “relentlessly positive ” week for Snyder and his EM’s, has it?
    maybe he should have thought it through, before ramming the same, “referendum proof” EM law back in right after the voter’s tossed it out.

    • javierjuanmanuel

      Why did no one object to EM managers in 4 or 5 cities under granholm?

      • Dongald Trumpenis

        Maybe she did it legitimately, and not for the corrupt reasons that Snyder did?