Detroit business leaders are still feeling the sting of not getting picked by Amazon for its new headquarters. But a Detroit coalition has an idea on how to spend that money another way.

A group of community members, parents and students believe the money and energy spent to unsuccessfully lure Amazon to Detroit should be redirected to invest in the state’s schools.

The coalition launched a campaign, “Amazon Won’t Be Our Last” Tuesday at a meeting space in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood. They also wrote a letter they delivered to the office of Dan Gilbert, Detroit business mogul and founder of Quicken Loans, to encourage him to join their effort.

When Amazon cut Detroit from the list of cities it was considering, it cited the lack of a large educated workforce with the qualifications to fill Amazon’s high-tech jobs. Amazon was concerned about the lack of talent in the entire region, not just in Detroit, but city schools have consistently had some of the lowest test scores in the state.

Among coalition members at the event were Alondra Alvarez, 18, a student at Western International High School in Detroit and a member of the 482Forward Youth Collective, who helped survey Detroit students about what made them angry about Detroit schools.

She said students responded they are angry about classrooms without teachers, and teachers who left because they were underpaid. They were upset about attending schools without counselors and nurses, and having to sit on the floor in classrooms without enough desks.

“A lack of resources is setting us up for failure, and to drop out,” she said. But problems plague students across the state from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula, especially districts serving low-income and students of color, she said, adding, “We deserve better.”

The event was sponsored by the Detroit Education Justice Coalition, a group of community leaders, parents and students who are working to improve education in Detroit and Michigan. Delegations from the coalition plan to deliver letters throughout February to every member of the Amazon Bid Committee asking them to help encourage candidates for governor and the state legislature to commit to supporting school funding, if elected. They started by delivering a letter to one of Gilbert’s assistants on Tuesday.

“If we’re serious about building a Michigan that works for everyone, we have to be serious about funding our schools,” said Bishop Daryl Harris of Total Life Christian Ministries and parent of two Detroit students. “That takes investment, and Michigan children are worth the investment.”

Below is the letter that the Coalition wrote to Gilbert:

PHOTO: Kimberly Hayes Taylor
Letter from Detroit Education Justice Coalition