Detroit school commission would strip parents’ control

Jase Bolger

Strong disagreement is the hallmark of sharp minds. But while some may have the right to disparage opponents and even spew hate speech, that doesn’t mean it’s right.

And make no mistake, hate is exactly what has come from Democrats and opponents of the compromise proposal to resolve the crisis in the Detroit Public Schools.

Some over-the-top and otherwise supposedly professional opponents have even called for violence against the Republican members of the Michigan House whose supposed misdeed was offering Detroit’s public schools $665 million ($50 million was sent earlier this year) to rebuild the nation’s worst school district.

The issue at hand is resolving the crisis in education in Detroit. Set aside the lunacy of excoriating a Republican legislature for delivering exactly what Detroiters have demanded for years: a return to local control (school board elections this year), wiping out years of debt (over $500 million) a fresh start ($150 million) and eliminating the EAA. Demands for a Detroit Education Commission (DEC) came only recently.

What Democrats and Mayor Mike Duggan demand in a DEC to protect the Detroit Public Schools system can only be done by taking power from Detroit parents and handing it to Detroit politicians. Everything else demanded in school accountability, and closing failing schools, whether they be charter or traditional, can be achieved — and should be achieved statewide — without a DEC. Advice on where schools are needed is included in the compromise. The DEC is only needed to prevent kids from leaving schools that don’t serve them and sacrifice these same kids at the altar of institutions.

Many opponents of the compromise and even Duggan choose charters and private schools instead of DPS when given the choice. My kids are proud graduates of Michigan’s traditional public schools. These opponents and Duggan have every right to send their kids where they want. What’s infuriating is the blatant hypocrisy of pressing what would limit those rights for others. But all kids, no matter their race, their zip code or their parents’ income, should have the same opportunity to choose a quality school.

Detroit kids deserve a chance. Detroit parents deserve control over their family’s future. Both deserve exactly the same power the rest of Michigan’s families have.

There’s been a lot of talk about bankruptcy in this debate. But, it’s those who would trap kids in a failing school who demonstrate bankruptcy: moral bankruptcy.

Whether in the halls of special interests or the caucus room of the Democrats, it’s clear that opponents of the compromise plan now before the Senate cannot argue the merits of their opposition because they rush to name calling and personal attacks.

All kids are counting on the courage being displayed by the Republican House, Senate and governor to step up and solve the challenges facing education in Detroit. Let’s hope all Detroit kids will receive a quality education in our public schools.

Jase Bolger, who served as speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2011-14, now serves on the Great Lakes Education Project board of directors.