Editor’s Note: Would Detroit mayor be fair to charters?
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan wants you to think he’d be a fair judge of all schools in the city. And in a city where more than half the students attend charter schools, fairness is essential.
Under a plan passed by the Senate to revamp how schools operate in Detroit, the mayor would have sole control of appointing a Detroit Education Commission. That commission would have the power to open and close all schools under its jurisdiction.
The legislative proposal also includes more than $700 million to keep Detroit Public Schools afloat. The House is currently considering the Senate plan; that chamber had put together its own set of bills for DPS and left out the concept of an education commission. Many members of the House have concerns with a school commission run by Duggan.
And they, along with the charter community, have reason to be worried. Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, which opposes the Senate plan for Detroit schools, is calling attention to a resolution adopted by Detroit City Council in November 2014—and approved by Duggan. As part of an agreement by the city to take over 77 DPS closed buildings and properties in exchange for the city forgiving $11 million of the district’s debt, the resolution states that “for a period of five years from the date of approval of this resolution, the city of Detroit shall not sell any of the properties to a public school academy (charter school).”
Duggan has called attention to how areas of the city don’t have access to nearby schools, and has complained that charters aren’t locating in the places that need them most. But given that the city has blocked charters from all these existing locations, they are limited as to where they can open.
Opponents to the education commission fear that DPS schools would be given precedence over charters. If this resolution is any indication, that’s a valid concern.