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Burkhart: Preserve school choice in Detroit

Jared Burkhart

Over the last six months there has been a large amount of conversation around reforming the education landscape in Detroit. This is a conversation that is well past due. Too many of our children have been ill prepared for their next steps in life due to the failures of outdated systems.

Any plan to reform the system of schools in Detroit needs to focus on empowering parents to do what is best for their children and giving them more options to choose from — not fewer.

We know that every person has an individual learning style. Only parents are in the position to truly understand the needs of their children and provide the best choices for their future. One of the most essential elements in parental empowerment is the ability to choose the school that provides the educational program that best fits their child’s individual needs. That program may be in a traditional school, a charter school or a parochial school. It may also be within the city limits of Detroit or housed in a neighboring city.

Parents in Detroit should have the same opportunities as parents in cities like Livonia, Warren, Lansing or Grand Rapids. .

Any practical plan for Detroit education must include items to allow parents to better access the best schools, including:

■ A working and reliable public transportation system will allow children from anywhere in the city to access the school that is the best fit for their needs.

■ Creating a true letter grading system for Michigan schools will allow parents to better understand the effectiveness of education programs that are provided.

■ A mandatory closure provision for schools that do not meet clear academic proficiency and growth measures will ensure that all schools are viable options for parents.

True education reform is about increasing student performance — not about protecting buildings and outdated systems. Any so-called reform that limits parental choices will also limit opportunities for Detroit students. The focus should never be about the preservation of jobs or governance models. The focus must be on allowing students to access academic programs that give them the same opportunities as students in every other city in this state and country.

Jared Burkhart is executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers.