Letter: School vouchers don’t help students

Re: Tim Kelly’s April 10 column “Kids would be better off without DPS”: We share the concern of Rep. Tim Kelly that a new Detroit Public Schools system should not simply be a logo or letterhead change.

But Kelly’s recommendation to expand school privatization simply continues the status quo, which research and experience tell us doesn’t help improve student performance. And it’s a false choice to suggest either keeping Detroit’s public schools as they are today or doing away with public schooling. The fact is, in place after place where public schools are not facing the combination of austerity and poverty that they are in Detroit, academic performance is better.

We fight for public schools that provide an opportunity for all children to succeed. That starts with funding and includes programs and services to mitigate the consequences of poverty. Since every Cincinnati public school became a community school with wraparound academic, social and healthcare services, Cincinnati has become the highest-performing urban district in Ohio.

To improve chronically low student performance in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which is smaller than Detroit but not much better off economically, the district chose to upend the status quo and use collaboration, trust and wraparound services as the key planks of change — not private school vouchers. Administrators team up with parents, teachers and their union to collaborate on providing students with rich instruction and the supports they need to thrive. The proof of the pudding is consistently higher student achievement.

So instead of dredging up failed reforms that come right out of anti-public school literature, let’s work on developing programs with a track record of giving kids a real shot at a bright future.

Randi Weingarten

President, American Federation of Teachers

David Hecker

President, AFT-Michigan