Failing Detroit schools can be closed now

Bill Schuette

Detroit’s future depends greatly on the city’s most valuable asset: its children.

In the neighborhoods of Detroit, far from the lights of downtown, kids who are trapped in a consistently failing school face an increasingly difficult time taking advantage of the opportunities America has to offer.

How can our neighborhoods attract investment, our economy create jobs and our families succeed when our children are stuck with a perpetually failing school?

Last March, I spent time reading with students at Burton International Academy in Detroit. Burton is a thriving public school located between Corktown and Midtown, with a strong principal, dedicated faculty, and students that shine.

Unfortunately, for many reasons, not all Detroit parents have the opportunity to send their children to schools like Burton.

That’s why the state legislature created Public Act 192 this year to reset the Detroit Public Schools system, with the goal of providing a quality education for all Detroit families. I was asked recently by Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter to clarify if this new law will allow authorities to close certain consistently failing schools under the control of the new Detroit Community Schools district by the end of this school year.

The answer is a clear and resounding yes. Any school currently operated by the Detroit Public School Community District that is on the list of low-achieving schools for the 2015-2016, 2014-2015, and 2013-2014 school years is subject to closure by the end of this school year.

It is acknowledged that this school reform legislation created a full financial and organizational reset and created a pathway for the new Detroit Public School Community District to succeed. But the same legislation also made clear, despite some claims to the contrary, that Detroit families should not have to be trapped in a school consistently ranked among the worst 5 percent statewide. Any public school — traditional or a charter — that has ranked among the worst at preparing students with reading, writing and math skills, can be closed by authorities.

Public Act 192 helps kids escape failing schools and helps parents whose one desire is that their children can go to school safely and learn to read and find the path to the shining city on a hill.

Bill Schuette is 53rd attorney general of Michigan.