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'My child matters!': Detroit parents rally for equal funding for charter schools

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — A group of parents and their charter-school children braved the cold Saturday to rally in front of the "Spirit of Detroit" in hopes the governor would hear their voices.

Detroit Voice for School Choice, a parent advocacy group, hosted the rally downtown Saturday where approximately 50 parents chanted "My child matters!" against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recent decision to cut $35 million spending increase for charter schools.

Moneak Parker, executive director of DVSC, has worked for charter schools for 17 years and put her three children through charter schools.

Detroit Voice for School Choice, a parent advocacy group, hosted the rally downtown Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, where approximately 50 parents chanted "My child matters!"

"We want the governor to restore the funding and stop using our kids as pawns," said Parker, who organized the rally. "This is impacting districts, charter schools specifically in the city of Detroit because this is where the majority of charter schools are."

Some schools may be forced to go without programing or increasing salaries for teachers, she said.

"Everyone knows there's considered a teacher shortage and a lot of schools have promised increases due to the increase they were supposed to receive and they cannot fulfill that obligation that could remain a problem down the road," Franklin said.

"It definitely impacts this year because many schools balance the budget on June 30 so they were expecting this to be included in that budget for this fiscal year."

Funding for K-12 education increased $300 million or 2% from $14.8 billion to $15.1 billion. Whitmer vetoed more than $128 million from the Department of Education, while the GOP failed to fund some of her educational projects.

The biggest veto flash point occurred when the Democratic governor cut $35 million for a $240 per-pupil spending increase for charter schools — independent public schools that are sponsored by a public authority. Per-pupil hikes for traditional public schools were kept intact. 

During an Oct. 9 trip to the Capitol, fourth grade Holly Academy students rallied against the cut, which Whitmer defended as having to make a "tough decision."

This is the second march for the Detroit group who took to the streets on Oct. 16 near Grand River and Lahser. 

► More: Michigan budget breakdown: Spending up $1.7B, but roads, higher ed cut

In 2018-19, 46% of Detroit students enrolled in a charter school compared with the 10% of students who did so statewide. An estimated 150,000 students attend charter schools in Michigan.

Former state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit (2003-2010), who chairs the board of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, has criticized Whitmer for the veto cut.

Marlin Franklin protested Saturday saying his 8-year-old son has only attended charter schools because it was the only option for them after multiple schools closed in the Brightmoor area where they live.

"Since my son has been in charter schools, he's excelled tremendously. He's currently in third grade but is working on sixth-grade algebra," said Franklin, 38. "The school we chose for him is amazing and to lose that $240 increase for each child ... just in our school district alone, with five schools, that's over $75,000 being taken away from that district."

He said he's most worried about the lack of teachers and the loss of investment in future generations. 

"It makes no sense to hurt our children's education when we're supposed to be driving the economy," Franklin said. "The state of Michigan is putting a lot of money into workforce development and hurting the youngest branch of kids right now.

"Doesn't make sense that they can't get back to the table and make this right."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_