Kids would be better off without DPS

State Rep. Tim Kelly

Isn’t about time we face facts? There simply are no fixes big enough to save Detroit Public Schools.

These facts are stubborn things, folks. Haven’t we learned from decades of graft, corruption and dishonest adults feeding off the futures of the state’s most vulnerable kids that DPS is a financial train wreck?

DPS also continues to prove they are the worst-performing urban school district in the country. How many years of coming in dead last for student performance do we need to confirm that DPS is beyond repair, academically?

It has become increasingly obvious that students in Detroit would be better off if DPS simply went away. Replacing the district with a “new” district, where the only thing that really changes is the logo and the letterhead, isn’t progress.

We shouldn’t sentence another generation of Detroit students to certain failure while selfish adults figure out ways to game the system in a new, but still corrupt and failing, school district.

The $715 million DPS bail-out plan pushed by the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren and passed by the State Senate doesn’t provide the kind of academic or financial reforms that instill confidence that students or the district will perform any better in the future than DPS has in the past.

If we want to see positive results and real change, we have to stop tinkering around the edges and get serious about the kind of sweeping changes we need. All options should be on table to help students in Detroit as well as thousands of kids suffering in the state’s lowest performing schools.

We shouldn’t be meek or timid, or accept continuation of the status quo, if we want significant changes. While Michigan used to be on the forefront of education results and reforms, we are being passed by so many other states, while our children are left behind.

At a minimum, we should embrace and support existing school choice options, rather than pile on additional layers of unnecessary bureaucracy, like the Detroit Education Commission, that serves some adult interests while erecting barriers to entry for nationally-respected innovative charter school management organizations.

At the same time, we should consider expanding school choice options. South Dakota just became the 24th state to include private school choice as an option for families. We should pass my resolution to open the doors to Education Savings Accounts for special needs students. We should also pass Rep. Gary Glenn’s resolution to provide tax credits for private school tuition.

It’s about time we updated our state constitution to reflect the new realities of education, which focus on expanded choice which reflect and respect the individual needs of students and families.

We also need consistent intervention in the state’s lowest performing schools, uniformly applied in both traditional public and charter public schools. The State Reform Office should use its authority to demand serious changes, up to and including closure, for chronically-failing schools.

I’m convinced one of the key reasons we struggle as a state with education performance is the lack of a unified statewide vision for what we expect in public education, and this starts at the top of the state’s education organization chart. This can be fixed by having the governor appoint the state superintendent and eliminate the State Board of Education. This is the conversation we should be having. Are you ready for it?

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and is a member of the House Education Committee.