Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Indicted... Convicted!... RESIGNS!
Photo by “CAVE CANEM”

The Detroit Public School system has been under something like receivership for a while now. Draining students like a sieve (over 80,000 students lost in the last decade), with evidence of significant fiscal mismanagement and corruption, the school system has gone through several attempts to fix itself over the last thirty years.

But state education officials have ordered the district’s emergency financial manager to close half the city’s schools, increasing class sizes significantly.

Detroit’s problems are significant. Whereas a combination of government inaction and a natural disaster transformed New Orleans over night, Detroit’s faced a slow burn.

But Detroit’s problems and Detroit’s solutions don’t quite go hand in hand. The rhetoric of crisis works to shortcut democratic discourse, and in this context it works to rollout measures that gut rather than save the institution under consideration. And the metaphors employed in the rollout are often taken from business.

Patrick Anderson, founder of the Anderson Economic Group, a Lansing-based economic consulting group, said DPS has no choice but to change its business model — dramatically.

“If this was a businesses entity, it would be in perilous straits and probably headed to bankruptcy,” he said. “When 50 percent of your customers leave and a substantial amount of revenue goes toward paying debt, the survival of your enterprise is in doubt.”

We can understand Wisconsin and GOP proposals about the budget using this framework as well, as elites use the context of crisis to either roll back the safety net under the auspices of making tough decisions, or to roll out controversial reforms. Detroit bears watching, and here I’m talking about more than the commercial.

Two sidenotes:
1. Seeing anyone change their intellectual perspective is interesting, but seeing Diane Ravitch go from conservative educational advocate to liberal is fascinating. Here she notes why teacher’s unions are necessary.

2. Even though I’m a Detroit Lions fan I supported Green Bay during the Super Bowl because Charles Woodson was one of my students. He’s recently come out in support of the Wisconsin unions. There’s no relationship between the two points. But don’t tell my heart that.

Michigan orders DPS to make huge cuts | | The Detroit News.