Detroit can’t lose with charter schools?
On the precipice of a newly elected school board, we must ask ourselves if charter-operated public schools are part of the answer to providing quality education for Detroit children. Detroiters are faced with failing district-operated public schools which are currently under state control for missing the mark.
While the idea of competition sounds great for every parent and student, the reality is that unchecked growth of charter schools in Detroit has created an oversaturated market, all competing for the poorest students.
In 2015, Detroit trailed New Orleans and New York for the highest number of students in charter schools, which has saturated its own education systems post-Hurricane Katrina. Here’s the catch: Only a small percentage of those charter schools are actually performing well enough to even report, which contradicts the need to compete for vulnerable students in Detroit’s traditional schools.
Detroit can fix its education fiasco with these options:
■Invest in its youth by adding standards to new charters flooding Detroit neighborhoods.
■Prepare students for the workforce through early apprenticeships and certified program.
Otherwise, DPS students will be an underbelly of generational poverty with no clear path out of a failed education system.
Over the past two decades Michigan has had nearly 200,000 fewer students than it did in the 1990s, but more than 100 new public charters. Good quality schools are the most important factor when comparing public charters and public district schools. It’s amusing how education reform legislation is often championed by dumping billions of tax dollars into failing school districts — in the name of saving poor children.
Education reform policies are often hijacked, politically, because of lawmakers’ dependence on financial support coming from teachers unions. Sadly, the conversation for improving school districts has often become one of politics and not progress. Policymakers, legislators and governors have supported failed education policies that haven’t benefited children because of dependency on campaign contributions. Any risks of elected officials supporting parental choice, getting rid of incompetence or increasing merit pay of educators are often viewed as a direct threat to the education establishment.
Teachers unions purpose is to advocate for, and to support educators, teacher aides, increase teachers salaries and protect all stakeholders. And Detroit’s lotteries for public charter schools often support only a percentage of Detroit students out of 49,000 — leaving behind a great number of students.
But legislators who oppose “choice” unfortunately will use political theater and pushing for more state funding for schools, promoting the idea that throwing more money toward failing districts will somehow offer a real return on their investment.
That same agenda has consistently beat the drum of asking state officials for more fiscal support, when many education organizations have neglected to show their own leadership’s salaries, exotic conferences and elaborate school facilities without the bare essentials for educating Detroit children.
We owe our children education reform and quality schools. Not partisanship.
Brandon Brice serves as a nonprofit executive and consultant, working with minority startups in Detroit.