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We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Support for Wisconsin Because Detroit is Burning

If you're following me on Twitter or Tumblr, you know that I've been heavily preoccupied with the situation in Wisconsin.

So much is at stake for Wisconsin and the country, and the labor movement legacy runs deep in my veins.

But I'd like everyone to take their eyes off Wisconsin for long enough to take in what is happening to Detroit, Michigan.

(AP) DETROIT - State education officials have ordered the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools to immediately implement a plan that balances the district's books by closing half its schools. The Detroit News says the financial restructuring plan will increase high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidate operations.

I haven't been watching the situation in Detroit closely enough to understand the ins and outs of the underlying politics, but this simply cannot be justified. Half the schools? 60 student high school classes? I don't see how one can even call this policy.

The crisis in Detroit has captured the attention of the White House, but rather than devise an immediate response to effect some semblance of stability for Detroit's young people (not to mention for the untold number of teachers and staff who will presumably lose their jobs), US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has declared that Detroit's best hope is to compete with other districts for a new round of so-called "Race to the Top" funds.

President Barack Obama and Duncan are pushing for a third round of his hallmark Race to the Top competition, outlined last Monday in the president's budget proposal.

Unlike the first two rounds in which states competed for federal dollars based on education reforms (Michigan lost in both rounds), the proposed $900 million third round would be targeted directly at school districts.

"It would be a huge, huge, huge opportunity for Detroit," Duncan said. "We would love to see them put forward a fantastic application. Nothing would please me more."

DPS, steeped in a more than $300 million deficit, wants to compete.

"Detroit Public Schools would look forward to an opportunity to apply for and win Race to the Top funds if another round is approved by Congress," DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said in an e-mail....

"The district has made real progress," Duncan said. "(But) the district frankly has an extraordinarily far way to go. If you look at some of the results from different cities around the country, Detroit's at the bottom in a lot of the results. So the work is nowhere near done."

Added Duncan: "I would love to see Detroit leapfrog other districts in five years from now (and) be in a very, very different place than it is today.

The students of Detroit don't have time for Duncan's unproven, destructive notions of education "reform." In five years the remaining public schools in Detroit will be nothing better than holding pens for young people who have been deprived of their right to education.

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