Former Detroit Teacher’s Open Letter to Snyder

Billionaire Dick DeVos and one of his Detroit victims. (MLive/USUncut)

Last night, the Michigan Senate passed bills to relieve the Detroit Public Schools of state-created debt. After Republicans in the Michigan House refused to compromise, the Senate bills were passed without their original centerpiece, a Detroit Education Commission that would have the authority over public school and charter school openings. The DEC had been supported by a broad coalition that included teachers, the Skillman Foundation and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The outcome was a victory for for-profit charter school operators, who generate millions in profits using public education dollars, and for the billionaire DeVos dynasty of Grand Rapids, which has pushed a privatized education system for decades. The bills now go to Governor Snyder’s desk.

The following is an open letter to Snyder by former Detroit Public Schools teacher Regina Weiss, urging him not to sign the bills.

Governor Rick Snyder,

I am an educator and a former Detroit Public Schools teacher. In fact, I moved to the city of Detroit in 2011 with the sole purpose of teaching in the Detroit Public Schools. I taught in DPS for three years, and left the district in 2014 when it was pretty clear that I would no longer be able to afford to pay my mortgage and other bills on my meager salary.

It broke my heart to leave the district and my kids. It still breaks my heart today to think about it.

As someone who worked in the trenches of the Detroit Public Schools, I know better than most across the State just how desperately the district needs restructuring and reform.

As an educator, historian, and activist, I have a good understanding of how the District got to where it is today. I know, as do other teachers and parents in Detroit, what needs to be done to restore some sense of balance and equity to the district.

But, I’m not writing to give you a history lesson. Though, if you’d like one, please let me know and I’d be happy to oblige. I’m not even writing to tell you my views on how to start fixing the district (again, happy to oblige if you’d like; just let me know).

The reason why I’m writing to you is because of the travesty that happened in the Senate tonight. The legislation that has passed first through the House and now the Senate is the exact opposite of what Detroit kids and families need.

I am writing to ask you to do one simple thing: Refuse to sign the bill. Ball it up and throw it in the trash, where it belongs.

Governor Snyder, you do not need to be complacent in the destruction of public education within the city of Detroit. You know as well as anyone that this plan is garbage. The reforms that the original Senate plan proposed, while imperfect and a far cry from real sustainable change, would have at least been a slight move in the right direction.

This bastardization of “reform,” however, is designed to do nothing other than dismantle public education in the city and replace it with a for-profit, unregulated charter system (funded largely by the DeVos family) that will benefit only the special interests (and the politicians whose campaigns they fund) who make money on the backs of underprivileged children.

Do not put your signature on this bill. You have a choice, and you know what the consequences of your actions are. This bill is the Flint Water Crisis of education reform. Please, stand up and say no. You are the only hope right now for preserving public education in Detroit and protecting kids and families. Please, do the right thing.

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