Caveat: I have no idea what the full back story behind this link might be. Perhaps some public servant can come in and explain why in fact the city of Detroit's action was perfectly appropriate or necessary. But on its face it seems a fascinating indictment of the public school bureaucratic mentality. [UPDATE: Thanks to highnumber in the comment thread for finding a news story with more. The school district sold the building as is after a fire. Can't tell from the account whether it was the case that sorting through and moving the still usable material would cost more than just giving up and buying new ones, but it's certainly possible. Still, this story from commenter J sub D makes one think that just abandoning things isn't uncommon for Detroit's school system--which still isn't to say that the abandonment might not have ultimately made economic sense.]
It starts as a general discussion of urban exploration (of abandoned buildings) in the Detroit area, then becomes a photo travelogue of a particular one: an abandoned public school book depository. An excerpt of the text:
This is a building where our deeply-troubled public school system once stored its supplies, and then one day apparently walked away from it all, allowing everything to go to waste. The interior has been ravaged by fires and the supplies that haven't burned have been subjected to 20 years of Michigan weather. To walk around this building transcends the sort of typical ruin-fetishism and "sadness" some get from a beautiful abandoned building. This city's school district is so impoverished that students are not allowed to take their textbooks home to do homework, and many of its administrators are so corrupt that every few months the newspapers have a field day with their scandals, sweetheart-deals, and expensive trips made at the expense of a population of children who can no longer rely on a public education to help lift them from the cycle of violence and poverty that has made Detroit the most dangerous city in America. To walk through this ruin, more than any other, I think, is to obliquely experience the real tragedy of this city; not some sentimental tragedy of brick and plaster, but one of people...
Pallet after pallet of mid-1980s Houghton-Mifflin textbooks, still unwrapped in their original packaging, seem more telling of our failures than any vacant edifice. The floor is littered with flash cards, workbooks, art paper, pencils, scissors, maps, deflated footballs and frozen tennis balls, reel-to-reel tapes. Almost anything you can think of used in the education of a child during the 1980s is there, much of it charred or rotted beyond recognition. Mushrooms thrive in the damp ashes of workbooks. Ailanthus altissima, the "ghetto palm" grows in a soil made by thousands of books that have burned, and in the pulp of rotted English Textbooks. Everything of any real value has been looted. All that's left is an overwhelming sense of knowledge unlearned and untapped potential. It is almost impossible not to see all this and make some connection between the needless waste of all these educational supplies and the needless loss of so many lives in this city to poverty and violence, though the reality of why these supplies were never used is unclear. In some breathtakingly-beautiful expression of hope, an anonymous graffiti artist has painted a phoenix-like book rising from the ashes of the third floor.
A whole bunch of education-related stories from reason.