Opinion: Civil Rights Commission is hurting the children it's supposed to be helping
Last month the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a report called “Education Equity in Michigan,” which included a number of outstanding recommendations for how we can improve educational opportunities for students who have been denied them for far too long.
Unfortunately, though, the report also included a recommendation that would devastate the very children the commission is supposed to be helping — minority students.
Among the recommendations was a proposal to slash funding for every charter school student in the state by 25%. This would include half the students in Detroit – including the 420 scholars who attend the charter school that I co-founded, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, nearly all of whom are minority students, and most of whom come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Hear that again: The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants to tell the 420 scholars at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy that they’re only worth three-quarters of a person. That’s outrageous.
Some facts are in order. Charter schools in Michigan serve a disproportionately high number of minority students. Roughly 68% of students who attend charter schools in Michigan are minorities, compared to 30% in traditional public schools. Half the students in Detroit and Flint attend charter schools.
And here are some facts about my school, the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve become one of the highest-performing high schools in the city. The school’s four core values are family, respect, excellence and determination, and we live those values every day.
We’ve had six graduating classes now, and many of our scholars have gone on to attend and graduate from some of the top colleges and universities in the country (including the University of Michigan, I’m proud to say). In many cases, they’re the first members of their family ever to attend college.
From the beginning, we’ve adopted a “9 to 16” educational model, which means we don’t just say “good luck and see you later” when our scholars graduate in 12th grade. We stick with them throughout their college years, providing them with the support they need — everything from helping arrange tutors to counseling them on what courses to select. We stick by them, help them get internships, connect them with mentors and other programs. We don’t just want our scholars to attend college; we want them to graduate from college.
Many of our scholars have lived in extreme poverty their entire lives. They’ve been held back at every turn. They’ve faced the kind of discrimination that most people can’t imagine.
And on top of all that, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission now wants to tell them they’re worth 25% less than everyone else? How in the world is that advancing the cause of civil rights?
Despite what the Michigan Civil Rights Commission might be telling them, I know my scholars aren’t worth less than anyone. They have the same right to a great education as any child, and we need to treat them that way. The same is true of every single charter school student in the state — the children that are being told they’re only worth three-quarters of a person.
It’s not hard to see what’s going on here. My sport is basketball, but I know a few things about football, too. And I don’t appreciate our scholars being treated like they’re political footballs.
It’s not too late to right this wrong. I urge the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to drop this hurtful, harmful, discriminatory recommendation. Let’s stop playing politics with our children and work together for true equity in education.
Jalen Rose is the co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit. He was a member of Michigan’s “Fab Five” and works as a commentator for ABC and ESPN.