Archives for category: Detroit

Over the past generation, Detroit has suffered from de-industrialization, middle-class flight, high poverty, joblessness, and abandonment by the state and civic elites. One reform after another has failed to “save” its schools, because reformers ignored the root causes of poor academic performance.


Now, conservative Michigan Governor Rick Snyder plans to get rid of public education and turn Detroit into an all-charter district like Néw Orleans. This is now public officials’ favorite way of getting rid of their responsibility, by handing it off to the private sector.


Here is one analysis of the continuing abandonment of the children of Detroit. I don’t usually cite partisan sources but this is as good an in-depth a review as I have seen. If you spot any errors, let me know.


It is a sad story. Our nation can’t afford to educate its poorest children. Actually, it can afford to but chooses not to. They need small classes; arts programs; experienced teachers; stability. None of that is part of the plan. We lack the will to help those who most need a good education.

State Representative Tim Kelly, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called for the dissolution of the Detroit public schools. This is a sign of abdication of responsibility by those on control.

“The state has controlled DPS for much of the last 15 years. It has been run by governor-appointed emergency managers since 2009, and was under state control from 1999 until 2005.”

Kelly admits the state has “some” culpability, but nonetheless wants to eliminate public educationin Detroit, which the citizens of that city have not controlled for 15 years.

Republicans are talking about turnong Detroit into an all-charter district, but as the newspaper points out, charters in Detroit do not outperform the maligned public schools. Some are talking vouchers, but there is no reason to believe that they would be any better.

In short, the same people at the top who have sliced and fixed the schools of Detroit for 15 years are now throwing up their hands and saying, “Let’s abandon the state’s obligation to educate the children of Detroit and instead hand them over to the private sector.”

This is not a solution, it is a retreat from the state’s responsibilty. Why is it that state takeovers and suspension of democracy seem to be concentrated in black districts?

At the Network for Public Education conference in April, Jitu Brown of Journey for Justice described these takeovers as “the new colonialism.”

Tom Pedroni and Karen Twomey write in the Detroit Free Press that it’s time to restore democratic governance to the public schools of Detroit.

Plans and proposals are flying around from every district but all of them involve state control and privatization.

This is ironic as Detroit has had its fill of failed state control.

“All three proposals place inexplicable faith in the state’s ability to rectify the very problems that it, more than any other government entity, has created. Under the state’s watch for 13 of the last 16 years, the district has lost two-thirds of its students — more than 100,000 kids. Meanwhile, long-term debt has ballooned from around $700 million in 1999 to more than $2.1 billion today. Worst of all, state-mandated assessments, including the MEAP, reveal that Detroit’s students have lost even more ground to their state peers since 2009, when the state imposed emergency management.

“The closure of nearly 200 schools since 2002 has exacerbated student flight from the district while hurting already fragile city neighborhoods. What little funding the district retains is increasingly steered by emergency management from the classroom to administrators, consultants and contractors. A district that under the elected board drove 55%-60% of its revenues to classroom instruction — a proportion similar to most suburban districts — now allots the classroom less than 47%.”

The status quo–state control–has failed. The authors propose a return to democratic governance, with state assumption of the District’s debt. They propose a series of common sense reforms that could put Detroit public schools on the path to revival instead of extinction.

Teachers at a Detroit charter school wanted to form a union. The charter operator challenged the vote on grounds that TFA teachers are not real professionals.

“The election was held to establish a union of teachers and staff at University Prep Schools.

“UPrep Schools consist of seven campuses under the University Preparatory Academy and University Preparatory Science and Math charters. They are managed by Detroit 90/90.
“While there were 19 more no votes from those who did not want the union, Detroit 90/90 challenged the voting rights of Teachers for America teachers and long-term substitutes, claiming the teachers they hired to stand in front of students are not actually professionals,” said Nate Walker, K-12 organizer and policy analyst with AFT Michigan.

“Walker said the voting rights of 30 teachers were challenged before the election, during an April 30 proceeding before the National labor Relations Board. Of those, 20 voted Thursday, and their ballots are in question.

“David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, said the vote Thursday is “not determinative, as there are 20 challenged ballots, most of which result from 90/90 not considering Teach for America teachers and long-term substitutes to be teachers.”

Five charter schools in Detroit have joined the AFT.

Governor Rick Snyder announced yet another reorganization of the Detroit schools. He declared that neither public schools nor charter schools were succeeding. He did not address the fundamental problems of Detroit, such as poverty, segregation, and de industrialization. How long will this reform last?

Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, here recounts the series of disasters associated with Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority.


The EAA enrolled children from the state’s lowest performing schools, all located in Detroit. It experimented with an unproven software program called BUZZ that was rife with glitches. Inexperienced teachers came and went. The governor boasted of the EAA’s successes, but enrollment dropped from 10,000 to about 7,000.


Why were these children used in an experiment?

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder persuaded the Legislature to create the so-called Education Achievement Authority, a cluster of very low-performing schools in Detroit. The first superintendent of the EAA, some 15 schools, was John Covington, who resigned his job as superintendent in Kansas City (which soon afterwards lost its accreditation) to take over the EAA. Covington’s time in office was blighted by controversy over conditions in the schools, the over-use and misuse of technology, as well as issues concerning the use of EAA credit card for travel and other expenses. Snyder has wanted to make the EAA statewide, but thus far it has not been successful and has lost enrollment.


The board of the EAA hired Veronica Conforme, who has been the interim, leader, as superintendent at a salary of $325,000, the same as Covington’s. She pledged to give $25,000 of her salary to local charities. Most recently, Conforme was working at the College Board where she was involved in the “Access to Rigor” campaign; before that, she was chief operating officer for the New York City Department of Education during the Bloomberg administration. She began work in the headquarters of the NYC Department of Education in 2003, after serving as director of human resources at Columbia University’s Medical Center. She has degrees from Syracuse and Columbia. She has a strong administrative background, but apparently no experience as a teacher or principal.

Jack Martin, the emergency manager for Detroitpublic schools, has canceled his proposal to cut teachers’ salaries by 10% and to increase class sizes to as many as 43. This is great news for the children and teachers of Detroit!

“In place of the pay cuts, Jack Martin will ask state education officials to extend the district’s five-year deficit elimination plan to seven years, consider layoffs for non-school employees and look to revenue increases from future property sales and possible student enrollment increases.

“Facing a fierce backlash from teachers, parents and even the state school superintendent, Martin announced the reversal of the planned cuts as part of the district’s plan to eliminate its $127 million deficit.

“The district’s deficit elimination plan, submitted to the Michigan Department of Education and approved last week, was intended to make up for the loss of a projected $18.5 million in revenue from a countywide school tax that voters rejected Aug. 5.

“Detroit Public Schools’ sole focus is and must remain providing the highest quality education possible to the children of Detroit,” Martin said during a news conference.”

From The Detroit News:

Governor Rick Snyder long ago made it clear that the state of Michigan has no intention of saving public education in Detroit or anywhere else. The city’s emergency manager announced a 10% pay cut for teachers, larger class size, and the closing of 24 schools. The schools have a deficit of $127 million. The wage concessions by teachers will save $13.3 million.

“Parents, educators and community stakeholders met Wednesday morning in front of Ludington Middle School to denounce the cuts, as well as the district’s previously announced plans to increase class sizes.

“Brian Kindle has two children beginning Head Start in the fall, and a 15-year-old at Cody High School. He said he’s worried about how pay cuts will impact his kids.

“I say hands off first responders, kids and teachers,” he said. “I’m here to support parents and their children, and to ask Gov. Snyder not to vote for the proposal.”

“Kindle said he fears additional cuts will result in further neglect of students in the classroom.

“We should have classrooms on every corner, instead of liquor stores,” he said. “That would be great, but we don’t have a society that encourages it. But I will remain on the forefront supporting our children.”

Dr. Thomas Pedroni of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project contends that the cuts to classroom instruction are NOT necessary. He shows in this analysis that the emergency manager has allowed other categories of spending to grow, while cutting the single service that matters most: classroom instruction.

Allie Gross arrived to teach in Detroit as a Teach for America recruit. Her three years in a charter school opened her eyes. She saw classrooms without supplies, children promoted who were not ready and did not get the intervention they needed, she saw feckless leadership promoted to larger roles. And she saw the growth of an industry. In this article, she describes what she learned about “the charter school profiteers.”

Here is a sample of a fascinating and disturbing portrait of what is happening in Detroit:

“In charter-heavy Detroit, permissive regulations have created an environment ripe for mismanagement.

“According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Detroit ranks number two nationally for charter enrollment. The city is right behind New Orleans, with over half of its school-aged students attending a charter school in the 2012-2013 school year. That number will no doubt rise now that Michigan has lifted its cap on charter schools. Even more pernicious, the majority of them are run by for-profit education management organizations (EMOs). According to a report by the National Education Policy Center, Michigan has the highest proportion of for-profit EMOS running their charter schools — 79 percent of the total.

“Privatization and limited oversight have conspired to produce a new figure: the education entrepreneur. In the chaos of the Detroit school system, education entrepreneurs see an opportunity for experimentation, innovation, and venture capital. And the decentralized nature of charter schools works to their advantage. With little coherence across schools, the issue of serial education entrepreneurs emerges. Those with limited track records of success are able to wedge their ways into school after school, with nobody checking up on past performance.”


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