Detroit City Wire

Detroit City Wire

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Activist questions Detroit Public School's use of $250,000 in grant money to send staff, students on Italy trip


By Glenn Minnis | Jan 31, 2020

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Detroit activist Monica Palmer wonders just how all-inclusive the trip to Italy that Detroit Public Schools Community District staff and 53 high school students recently took abroad really was.

“The trip to Italy was paid for by Title IV funds,” Palmer told Detroit City Wire. “Title IV funds are intended to offer well-rounded educational experiences to all students. The trip to Italy benefited 53 high school students – that is far from all students.”

In all, Michigan Capitol Confidential reports Detroit Public Schools shelled out $250,000 for the 10-day Italy in Depth-themed excursion last August, which also covered the round-trip air-fare, hotel accommodations and expenses in Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Rome for 11 school district employees. 

The Title IV federal grant program that paid for the trip is managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to the District, participating students were selected based on their grade point average, exemplary citizenship and interest in learning about the culture of Italy, with preferences given to students from low-income families.

“If the intent was to create an opportunity for international travel, Canada would have been a more cost-effective option providing the opportunity for more students to participate, but still doesn't meet the criteria for offering the experience to all students,” Palmer said. “Offering an additional foreign language class would meet the criteria for experiences to all students."

Approval for the trip was signed off on by the school board after district officials pointed to research showing that students who travel abroad have greater academic success and a greater number of occupational opportunities.

Palmer argues even more needs to be known given so many are being left out of taking part in some of the most plum activities.  

“I would like to see the Title IV grant application and oversight,” she said. “How was a program that benefits 53 students approved for a program that is created to offer well-rounded educational experiences to all students?”

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