DPS Student: “We Deserve Better”

Renaissance Junior expresses disgust in Michigan lawmakers

Jake Neher/WDET

A few weeks ago a sophomore at Renaissance High School, Imani Harris, penned an open letter to legislators about her concern over the future of Detroit Public Schools. She feared lawmakers would approve a version of legislation that would not address the worst problems facing the district. And she says what she feared came true this week. Here’s part of Imani’s article:

“This would never happen at a school in Bloomfield Hills. Is it because we’re black? Or maybe because you think we’re poor? Oh no, I’ve got it — it’s because we’re just poor black kids from Detroit who don’t have a future anyways. Why promise us anything when we probably won’t live past 18, right? Let’s give them some sick bill that we know they won’t read, so they’ll stop fussing and go back to school right? WRONG! I know my rights, and I know that the color of my skin does not give anyone the right to give me any different of an education than a white girl would get…. All who read this letter please know that there are some students who know the issues and want to help, but if our future is in the hands of politicians who care nothing about us, what can we do but sit and watch as our educations are thrown down the drain?”

Harris tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson that the student experience at DPS includes “overcrowding…building malfunctions…mold on the food…lack of books,” she says.

“My first day [at Renaissance] I realized, well this is different than the private school I was at [before],” she says.

Harris says one of her English teachers quit midway through the school year because she was fed up with the negligence afflicting students and teachers, and had become disenchanted with the decline of the school district. 

Harris says students in the DPS system all experience bloated class sizes as well. She says one of her classes has 42 kids.

“Half of them don’t even care [about their studies], and the other half want to learn, but, who can teach a class of 42 kids?” she asks. “I have the right to a free quality education…[and] I was literally told [by the actions of the Legislature] ‘That’s not my problem, I don’t care, we’re sick of paying for Detroit’s debt.’”

To hear more of Harris’ conversation on Detroit Today, click the audio player above.