Detroit’s Cautionary Tale

DSC_0107Yesterday’s New York Times carried the story of America’s failure to educate students. Detroit’s schools are a glimpse into an education future that should never be allowed to happen.

When educators warn about creating a two-tier or caste system of schools, the glaring example of this has to be Detroit’s schools. Detroit has created education choice, but the rush to something other than the public school system – schools that accept all comers  – has come with a steep cost to families and students left trying to find a good academic fit.  Tales of schools attempting to lure students from one school to another include enticements such as raffle tickets, bicycles, and cash.

The history behind the current state of education in Detroit is, of course, based in the corporate tradition of making money.

To throw the competition wide open, Michigan allowed an unusually large number of institutions, more than any other state, to create charters: public school districts, community colleges and universities. It gave those institutions a financial incentive: a 3 percent share of the dollars that go to the charter schools. And only they — not the governor, not the state commissioner or board of education — could shut down failing schools.

Just as marketers and sales people entice customers with “delighters”, schools that can offer no improvement over another, are using the same corporate-based incentives to lure students from one school to another. Why? Because the Detroit’s school-age population cannot support the number of charts operating in the City.

Think about that for one moment. Michigan allows a large group of institutions to create charter schools, there is an additional financial incentive above and beyond the per pupil costs, and the decision to close a failing charter is not made by a state board of education, it’s made by the charter institution. Is it any wonder that 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan are run by for-profit corporations?

The story of Detroit’s schools, the failures of state and local governments and elected representatives to protect and provide for the education of all children, the blatant abuses by higher academia and corporations. This is a cautionary tale for all of us.

Read Kate Zernike’s entire piece in the June 28 New York Times here.




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