By the time mid-autumn comes around, it’s reasonable for public school students to expect certain basic necessities to be in place, such as textbooks. But in Detroit this year, seven weeks into the academic term, dozens of schools are experiencing a severe shortage of textbooks, hampering instruction and frustrating students and families.
A survey conducted by the Detroit Federation of Teachers uncovered a shortage of some 8,300 books in just 29 of the city’s public school buildings; 10 buildings reported no missing books, and 88 schools did not file a report, The data that has been collected, though incomplete, hints at a much broader shortage of textbooks.
At one nationally recognized "School of Excellence,” Cass Tech High School, teachers are short nearly 2,400 textbooks; the survey found that 950 textbooks were missing in chemistry alone.
"There are a lot of frustrated parents,” Andrew Hays, a father of a third-grader on Detroit’s east side told the Detroit News. “They want the kids to have what they are supposed to have. At the beginning of the year, (parents) were told that every student would have the textbooks. It's seven weeks into school."
In the last year, Detroit Public Schools have received a lot of attention. In April, the system sent layoff notices to all 5,466 members of the teachers union. In May, former General Motors executive Roy S. Roberts became the district’s emergency manager. Only 1 percent of Detroit public high school graduates were deemed “college-ready,” compared with 16 percent nationwide, and the system was over $300,000 in debt.
According to its 2011-12 budget, spending on DPS textbooks and library books was cut from million in 2010-11 to $3.5 million this year, but officials say the lack of books is a result of a move toward more online textbooks and the purchase of netbooks and laptop computers for all sixth-through 12th-graders.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Landov)