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Union survey says overcrowding is a continuing problem in Detroit schools

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio

Nearly two months into the school year, more than a quarter of Detroit Public Schools are reporting overcrowding issues in some classrooms.

That’s according to an annual survey by the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The union’s contract caps class size at 35 students.

Some schools reported classrooms with more than 50 students. Some also reported lacking supplies like textbooks.

DFT Executive Vice President Mark O’Keefe said the district’s emergency manager, Roy Roberts, implemented a budget with deep cuts—but promised to keep class size under 35 students.

“It’s really alarming to see how the district continues to overcrowd classrooms, even after they imposed 10% pay cut on all of our members,” O’Keefe said. “That should have allowed them to staff the classrooms adequately.”

The union could file a grievance. But O’Keefe said Roberts threw out a contract provision that paid teachers more for oversized classes.

District spokesman Steve Wasko said that union-sponsored survey isn’t a good indicator of overcrowding. He said the district is working to resolve what he calls “a few” remaining class size issues—something he said should mostly be sorted out by the end of this week.

Wasko also said the union survey doesn’t take enrollment trends and official attendance data into account—and that vastly exaggerates the problem.

 “It’s not a document that we have used for any of our decision making,”  Wasko noted. “We have our own processes of determining classes that do need attention.”

O’Keefe called that “an excuse that makes no sense.”


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