Key Coverage

Held Back: Battling For The Fate Of A School District

The Detroit public-school system was contending with an operating debt of more than $500 million, and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan had estimated that the total debt topped $3.5 billion. For years, money intended for students has instead been paying off old loans, and academic achievement has consistently ranked among the worst in American cities.

At many school buildings, much-needed repairs to walls and leaky roofs have gone unaddressed; in the worst cases, mice could be seen scampering across unheated classrooms. For thirteen of the past seventeen years, the state has controlled the city’s school district, and with the more recent addition of all-powerful emergency managers, Detroiters have had to pin their frustrations and hopes on a rotating cast of emissaries.