Benton Harbor Schools are in Shambles

Teachers from across Michigan gathered in Benton Harbor to protest a public appearance by Governor Rick Snyder, who has slashed the state education budget. Photo/Brett Jelinek

Teachers from across Michigan gathered in Benton Harbor to protest a public appearance by Governor Rick Snyder, who has slashed the state education budget. Photo/Brett Jelinek


The Benton Harbor School system is in shambles. Some schools do not have heat. Others have no books. Test scores are the lowest in the history of the state. There is no order. When fights break out, the school board sends the students to the slaughterhouse (jail). The schools are the pipeline to jail. Berrien County already has more people incarcerated per capita than only one other county in Michigan.
Benton Harbor, a former industrial town, now has an unemployment rate of over 60%. The town is run by the Whirlpool Corporation. The school district is led by Superintendent Leonard Seawood. Four of the seven board members all vote every time in favor of the superintendent and the Whirlpool Corporation.
On January 11, 2013, there was a big fight at the High School. Police were called. Twenty-two students went to jail. The Superintendent and the School Board are blaming the parents for this deplorable situation. However, when you send your child to school, the school system has a responsibility to educate and protect the students. The leadership is in denial about its responsibilities, and about the real source of the problem.
The problem is that the children of Benton Harbor are being abandoned by an economic system that no longer has any use for educated workers. Computers and robots are taking over the assembly lines. The corporations will not spend money on workers they no longer need. So the children of Benton Harbor, and children across the country, are being housed in underfunded, dilapidated public schools. For profit corporate-run charter schools are set up, where corporations make all of the decisions about education, while public schools are left in shambles. Charter schools teach children not to question the system or to think for themselves. Public education is being transformed into commercial property. Around $750 billion is spent on public education in this country. The corporations want that money.  Meanwhile, corporate development in the town is creating million dollar homes and a signature golf course for the rich while poor children suffer in underfunded schools.
Fights take place almost every day in the Benton Harbor schools and the police are called three times a week. As long as a student is on school property during roll call the city can legally count the student present. This translates into money. The school superintendent wants the money, but does not want to care for the students. Nor do they want to deal with the parents. Seawood and his four school board members, and the Whirlpool Corporation, have failed the community.  Yet the school board recently gave the superintendent a 2-year extension for doing a good job. The teachers were asked to take a 10% pay cut.
As the jobs go, education as a birthright is being taken away. We are becoming a dispossessed group of the working class for whom capitalism no longer has any use. We need a vision of a new education system where everyone has the right to a quality education. We must demand that the government provide equal funds for every student. We must continue to fight against corporate greed. It is now or never.

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