Some stories are just too sad to make fun of, and this is clearly one of them. In the city of Detroit, a new study finds that nearly half of all residents are functionally illiterate. I’m fairly sure that there are stretches of the Amazon River where the residents have never heard of electricity that can beat that number.

According to a new report, 47 percent of Detroiters are ”functionally illiterate.” The alarming new statistics were released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund on Wednesday.

WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund’s Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.

“Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what’s on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks,” she said.

“I don’t really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that’s another question,” Tyler-Ruiz said.

Unfortunately that’s not even the saddest part. The report goes on to specify that roughly half of the illiterate population has either a high school degree or a GED, and yet they can’t read. Virtually all of them are recorded as having passed elementary school where one generally learns the basics of reading and writing.

Doug Mataconis notes that this is another case of a public school system simply melting down.

Per pupil spending in Detroit as of 2008 was $13,000, which is higher than some people pay for private schooling in other parts of the country. Clearly, the system has failed and the taxpayers aren’t getting their moneys worth. Unfortunately, at least half of them aren’t able to read the report (PDF) to figure that out.

There’s probably something buried in here about the local teachers unions, but I’m too depressed to go look for it about now.