May 21, 2009 at 1:00 am

Mayor Bing gives support to charter schools

Detroit mayor makes remark during announcement of a $15M school to be built on Detroit riverfront.

Detroit -- Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday expressed his support for creating myriad educational options in the city in addition to Detroit Public Schools.

"I'm for education. Period," Bing said, adding that he supports traditional public schools, private schools, parochial schools and charters.

Bing made his remarks during an announcement that a new $15 million science and math charter high school would be built on the Detroit riverfront. The Thompson Education Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan announced they would fund construction of the 94,000 square-foot high school tied to the University Prep Science and Math Middle School. The middle school, open now at a temporary site at the Compuware Building, will move to a new facility next to the Detroit Science Center.

The former site of Franklin Furniture will be renovated to house the high school in fall 2010. Representatives of the Community Foundation, which contributed $1.5 million, said they hope the investment will help redevelop the city's far east side neighborhood.

Bing, a longtime supporter of charter schools, said the school is important because it offers parents and students an educational choice. The announcement of the new charter high school comes as Detroit Public Schools continues to struggle financially, with the district's Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announcing Tuesday the district will cut 900 jobs to reduce the system's $306 million deficit and balance the budget for fiscal year 2010.

Bob Thompson, a former businessman who heads The Thompson Education Foundation with his wife, Ellen, has tried to use his fortune to improve urban education for the past decade.

After Detroit Public Schools turned down his $200 million offer to create 15 charter high schools, he threw his support behind a separate charter system, including University Prep High School and the science and math charter.

"We both believe in the same thing, and that's helping young people get the very best education that they can get," Bing said, refering to Thompson.