We Can Win!  Detroit says ‘NO’ to Mayoral Control

“DID YOU HERE THE GREAT NEWS! BAMN turns the ballot on Mayoral take over we won once again 6 to 3 votes!!! also rob bobb is running away i heard on the news thats hes going to be gone in like march!!!! we are winning and winning feels so good!!!”

This was the message I received last night on FaceBook from De’Von Burt, the 16 year old Frederick Douglas High school student from Detroit who has spent his last year fighting for a decent public education in the city of Detroit.  We’ve become good friends and I am proud to know him!

I previewed De’von at www.dailycensored.com many times, as did Solomon Comissiong (on radio) and you can find his interview under Author’s posts.  De’Von has organized against Wal-Mart’s plans to take over four high schools with dumbed down ‘internhships’; he has fought in D.C. with ‘By Any Means Necessary’ (www.bamn.com) to hand out leaflets to students within D.C. schools asking them not to support the dreadful policies of the bi-partisan Race to the Top and to walk out of their schools in protest.  De’Von has traveled to Chicago to attend last month’s Rainbow Push meetings on education; he sat in at Michigan’s, ‘Groveler’ Jennifer Granholm’s office and faced arrest, while many of his compatriots were led away.  De’Von Burt has fought for the rights of special education students in Detroit and demanded his own wheelchair for ailments he suffers from disinterested school administrators that have no interest in our children.  De’Von is a fighter and young organizer and that is why his message was a breath of fresh air coming from the pant seat of a hot city.

Eli Broad, Robert Bobb and of course Arne Duncan take a hit

The issue that has faced Detroit in the not too distant past and faced it last week was the thorny issue of mayoral control, the darling of educational privatizers and urban development autocrats seeking full control over economic and social policies.  The late Gerald Bracey did more writing on mayoral control than I ever have and if you do not know his work on this subject do google it. 

In a nutshell, mayoral control is a neo-liberal political mechanism that puts into place a unitary executive at the city level, in the form of a dictatorial mayor answerable only to the city’s investor class.  It is a favorite tool of serial privatizers such as Michael Bloomberg in NY or Duncan’s old boss, Mayor Daley in Chicago.  You can see it in LA too, under Mayor Villaraigosa where 33 charter schools were simply handed over to private or non-profit ‘turnaround’ artists, as they like to call themselves, or better charter charlatans, to close public schools and launch more charter schools.  The political arrangement of mayoral control avoids meddlesome democracy, you know, the thing this country was supposed to be founded on?  No fussy public input, no Public Record Acts or legal meetings need to be had.  Mayoral control removes democracy from a failing economic system.

Mayoral control also removes the jurisdiction of school boards or actually vaporizes them completely and autocratically moves control over all decisions regarding public education and urban development, for that matter, to the unitary executive — the corporate mayor.

The question of whether the mayor of Detroit, David Bing, should run the Detroit Public Schools was an issue that many of those profiting from the privatization of education and looking to remove democratic decision making from the public wanted to see put up for vote on the November ballot.  As you can read from my earlier and constant coverage of the Detroit dilemma, the issue of mayoral control has been explosive.  Here is a great video of the recent victory! (http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/politics/local_politics/dps-control-prop-not-going-on-ballot-20100729-wpms).

The particulars of the defeat of Mayoral Control in Detroit

On June 29th, 2010 after various public meetings the City council voted 6 to 3 against placing on the ballot a question that would have asked voters if they wanted the mayor to appoint the superintendent and the city council to appoint an advisory school board, replacing the elected 11-member board.  This is a very large victory for anti-privatization forces seeking to maintain public education and control and decision making about the future of their children.

After the vote not to place the controversial measure on the ballot, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing responded to his loss, saying that students and supporters of DPS will lose out.  According to Bing, whose political life is being measured for a coffin:

“It’s unfortunate that the Council has chosen to deny voters the opportunity to decide for themselves what kind of school system and accountability best serves our children. Our schools and our kids deserve better” (Detroit council decides against putting DPS question on ballot, Pratt, C. D., Detroit Free Press, July 29, 2010).

These words from a man who has sat back and watched his city ravaged by Wall Street, bullied by Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Governor Granholm of Michigan, Gates, and the Skillman Foundation rabidly seeking to privatize schools.  As Bing bemoaned the fact the ballot will not contain the measure for mayoral control, he currently watches and supports Robert Bobb, the Eli Broad harlot, close 140 schools, fire teachers, turn kids into commodities to be sold, turn public schools into ‘priority’ schools or charter schools and destroy neighborhoods.  The wholesale auction of our public educational system, and the kids and parents that comprise it in Detroit was presided over by the full spectrum support of David Bing.

At the meeting on the 29th where the measure was shot down, Mildred Madison from the League of Women Voters, who also pushed a successful advisory referendum last November calling for City Council members to be elected from wards rather than the city as a whole, stated the matter quite candidly the night the vote was taken:

“This is a state issue and it never should have come to you. We have an elected school board. Let them do (their) job. “This is our school system, not yours” (July 29, 2010, http://detnews.com/article/20100729/METRO/7290459)

Activist Malik Shabazz warned council members would invite “war” if they approved the measure.  He spoke directly to the council stating:

“I ask you to do the right thing. Why don’t you all do the job you are elected to do? The council and mayor can do something about homelessness, (and) the loss of residency, which is destroying the tax infrastructure of this city. If you pass this, it means outright war. We’re going to recall y’all and march on your houses (ibid).

The debate over the issue of handing David Bing the job of overseeing the school district debate was a blistering one that took over three weeks of intense organizing by ‘By Any Means Necessary’ (www.bamn.com) and many other community activists.  The idea was often compared to slavery and many activists and supporters of public schools claimed it subverts democracy.  Of course they are and were right: for it would have abolished the 11-member school board in favor of the rule of ‘men’, not the rule of law and furthered the achievement gap between black and white children while segregating what I call the ‘sub-prime’ kids, those easily profited from through charter schools, into newly minted dens of despair.  This, of course is what the privatizers wanted.  Arne Duncan has even come out forcefully for mayoral control all over the United States knowing that this is the only way he will get his deranged ‘de’-forms passed.  This must be a heartbreaker, especially after he and Obama faced the Urban League and other civil rights organizations critical of the privatized plan for our kids.

Seeing that they were running into problems with the Detroit Public School System that is currently suing the city and Robert Bobb, Skillman, astro-turf groups, bond underwriters, school privatizers and other venture capitalists understood, as does Arne Duncan, his wrecking crew of billionaires and the Obama administration, that if there is no subversion of democracy, no autocratic body that can ram school privatization measures through city government without a feckless public, then they just might not succeed in taking over devastated Detroit School system with their Hurricane Katrina plans for education.

The rejection by the council is a slap in the face to Arne Duncan, Jennifer Granholm, and Eli Broad, the Skillmans and other so called philanthropists.  It is also a rejection of Race to the Top, the bi-courtesan plan for our nation’s schools.  However, for the perfidious fRobert Bobb, Financial Manager of Detroit Schools and appointed by Granholm at the urging of Eli Broad who pays more than $200,000 salary of the gunslinger, the loss will surely send him packing in March when his term comes up – perhaps before. 

For the vote was not simply a rejection of mayoral control, it was the beginning of what is developing into a large and well organized public opposition to the capitalist’s plans to devour the city and turn it into a vast playground where gentrification and public school closings and charter school openings mean big money for Wall Street and investment capitalists.  Look for Bobb to board the stagecoach soon!  His future is used up.

The efforts of BAMN and diverse Detroit groups fighting for the right for a decent education under democratic supervision paid off.

As I wrote De’Von, all the mobilizations, the tedious meetings at various people’s homes, the threats of arrest and persecution by both Detroit police and principals at various schools, the school walkouts, the arrest at Granholm’s office and the myriad of other networking and organizing is what works and what worked to stop the barbarians from storming the gates.

Detroit should serve not as a canary in the coal mine, as I wrote some years ago, but now as a beacon for hope and we can only mark the day when Bobb is thrown out of the city and the painful closure of arts, music, schools and the pitiful plans of Wal-Mart, The Skillmans and others bent on making our children second class citizens are ground into the dirt. 

This is just one victory among many to come!

However, as Detroit activists know, this is just one victory among the many battles they must wage and win in order to stop the smash and grab policies of the Duncan regime and their cohorts.  For now, the privatized coterie is at a loss, and Race to the Top has been denied Detroit – no doubt awaiting this vote and perhaps even anticipating it.  Also, the good news is that the politics of the disgraced Governor of the State, Jennifer Granholm, have been shown to be what activists always knew they were: a disgusting capitulation to right wing economic policies bent on destroying youth, carving childhood out of the chests of children, and betraying the dreams and hopes of Detroit citizens and their kids.  Let us hope she is next to pack her bags and wait at the corner store for the next Greyhound bus.

De’von:  All I can say is thank you!  And thank you to BAMN and others for beating back the tide of privatization that threatens the very fabric of our lives.  This victory has shown that BAMN’s effort to mobilize the community and young people has worked.  It has also shown what other cities might due to ward off the vampiric economic policies of Race to the Top and hierarchical rule by the capitalist class.  For this, we owe Detroit, big time!

On a similar note I just received this from DFT:

On July 7, teachers from Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, California, Missouri and Florida united to form the BAMN/EON slate in the AFT National Officers and Executive Council elections at the AFT’s 2010 National Convention in Seattle. 

Together these dedicated, experienced and courageous fighters pledged to take the AFT in a sharp break with the current AFT leadership’s policy of conciliating US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program and the other efforts to privatize and dismantle public education. 

We urge you to watch our campaign statements from the convention at http://www.youtube.com/user/DFTmembers , and post your comments.  

Contact us and learn what you can do to help in this historic effort to build new leadership in order to save the AFT and public education. 

Steve Conn

Detroit Federation of Teachers 231

313.645.9340

[email protected]

= On July 7, teachers from Detroit, Chicago, Washington DC, California, Missouri and Florida united to form the BAMN/EON slate in the AFT National Officers and Executive Council elections at the AFT’s 2010 National Convention in Seattle. 

 

Together these dedicated, experienced and courageous fighters pledged to take the AFT in a sharp break with the current AFT leadership’s policy of conciliating US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top program and the other efforts to privatize and dismantle public education. 

 

We urge you to watch our campaign statements from the convention at http://www.youtube.com/user/DFTmembers , and post your comments.  

 

Contact us and learn what you can do to help in this historic effort to build new leadership in order to save the AFT and public education. 

 

Steve Conn

Detroit Federation of Teachers 231

313.645.9340

[email protected]

 

 

 

=