The Last Cut: Dismantling Detroit Public Schools

  • Built and Rebuilt: The Detroit School of Arts Story from Kate Levy on Vimeo.

    Images from: “Every School Closed Under Emergency Management, 2009-2016”

    Birthday party near Burt Elementary, shuttered in 2010, displacing 275 kids. Photograph 2017.

    Selected Screenings:
    Michigan State University Detroit Center (Built and Rebuilt), November 2017
    Wayne State University College of Education (Built and Rebuilt), January 2016
    Wayne County Community College (Because they Could-short), March 2015
    Wayne State University Law School (Because They Could-short), January 2015
    Detroit Board of Education (Because they Could-short), October 2014

    Exhibitions:
    Time Moves in One Direction, Memory Another Wayne State University Art Gallery (Built and Rebuilt), October 2016

    Selected Press:
    Diane Ravitch, (The Last Cut?), February 2017
    Great Lakes Center for Education and Research, (The Last Cut?), February 2017
    Infinite Mile, November 2016 (Built and Rebuilt) 

  • This work is an in-depth look at state oversight, austerity and school closings within Detroit Public Schools. From 2014-2017, I received support from the Leonard Kaplan Education Collaborative at Wayne State University, to work with Detroit Public Schools parents and students to tell the stories of school changes under state oversight. I conducted investigative research, shared findings with academics and communities, and facilitated group storyboarding sessions. This multi-part video and photography series gives voice to the students, parents and teachers adversely affected by these policies.

    The films Because they Could and Built and Rebuilt were commissioned by the Leonard Kaplan Education Collaborative at Wayne State University. Because They Could (2014) chronicled the closure of an elementary school for physically disabled children and was produced in partnership with the Oakman Parents Association. Built and Rebuilt (2015) details the history of a public high-performing arts high school through a 25 year history of education reform, the charter school movement and the trials and tribulations of the Detroit Public Schools district. It was co-directed by parent-activist Yolanda Peoples. I invited students whose video production class had been discontinued, to participate in shoots. I also commissioned an illustrator whose drawing class had been cut, to produce the drawings for the film.

    In early 2017, the State of Michigan threatened another round of mass school closures. As a founding member of the We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective I partnered with the Michigan Network of Equity in Education and the collective to produce The Last Cut a nine-minute film that follows former Oakman student Timothy Wright through multiple school closures, and quantifies the effects of state-mandated closings on children of color. The collective produced materials distribute through the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Network based in part on my research for the ACLU of Michigan’s Structural Flaws Project,  the collective produced a series of pamphlets outlining Michigan school funding inequities. My series of photographs of every school closed under Emergency Financial Management provides imagery for the Research Collective’s upcoming publication analyzing and mapping Michigan school policy.

    Aliya and Taliyah Moore at Oakman Elementary

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