Validation is a powerful aphrodisiac for some. In regards to the Detroit education package Governor Snyder signed last week, I feel it. Reading what Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press wrote gives an accurate sense of what the legislation does and doesn’t do.
I feel validated.
I had the privilege to spend the last year lobbying on behalf of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren’s legislative agenda. And I can’t find the words to describe the contempt Republican legislators have for the city. Words such as “bailout”, “rescue” or “corruption” were used constantly. It got to the point where I thought “someone” created talking points and passed them out through the entire Republican State House and Senate Caucus chambers.
Over and over in almost every meeting with conservative legislators, the following phrases were used:
- Detroit parents don’t care about their kids.
- DPS is a corrupt school district
- Let DPS implode, so the charter schools can come in and teach Detroit kids.
- Detroiters can’t handle their money.
- Why should we bail Detroit out, again? Those are my top five. There were many more.
What is the most interesting thing about the history of this legislation is that you would figure that the most contentious issue would have been the money. No! It was creating the Detroit Education Commission to manage the logistics between charter and traditional public schools in the city.
From Stephen Henderson’s article: “And then there’s the absence of the Detroit Education Commission in the final legislation.”
That would have coordinated most school openings and sitings as a way to calm the madness that exists now, where two systems — the traditional public schools and the charter schools — don’t coordinate at all and don’t share common goals. The traditional public schools have to serve everyone and have tried to maintain enough school buildings citywide, even as the uneven population loss makes that more difficult every day.
Charter operators can pick where they want to open and can decide which grades they’ll serve. It’s no accident that the vast majority of operators have elementary schools, but not high schools — the math works out that elementary schools can break even, or maybe make a profit. The higher expenses at the upper grades can mean losses.
A DEC would have looked at the city’s needs for all schools and all children. It would also have brought charters under needed performance scrutiny. Over 22 years, charter schools have promised to improve outcomes and choices for Detroit parents. The best they can report, overall, is a 15% proficiency rate on national tests. It’s a well-documented swindle that pulls $1 billion away from traditional public education every year in this state.
In a city where more than half the school-age population already attends charters, the DEC was a desperately needed mechanism to bring even a modicum of order to the educational landscape.
The charter lobby, financed by the DeVos family in western Michigan, bought its way to a bill that excised the Detroit Education Commission.
I feel validated this week, but that doesn’t really matter. Because there are nearly 100,000 children in the city of Detroit who do not feel validated, because they are not being empowered to receive the same education that students across the state of Michigan receive.
To learn more, take a look at Stephen Henderson’s article, click here.
Brian Love is a father and education advocate living and working in Detroit. He blogs at Detroit Schools Rock.