Poor Detroit has been a petri dish for every reformer idea. None of them has worked.
Michigan has run the entire table of reformster ideas– takeover of the district, creation of an achievement district, and charter operators brought in to replace the publics. Detroit is now a reformy buffet. Moreover, Detroit should be a beautiful display of how well the various reformster policies work. Except that it isn’t, because they don’t.
Detroit is a case study in state authorities looking at a system in crisis and saying, “Let’s try anything, as long as it doesn’t involve actually investing money and resources in the children of Those People.” Detroit has been a city in crisis for a while now, and that has allowed leaders to say, “We have a chance to fix education in this city and let some people make good money doing it. And if we can only get one of those things done, well, let’s go with the money-making one.”
When a crisis happens– a hurricane hits, the bottom is ripped out of a local economic driver– that opens up a gaping area of need in a state, officials can respond one of two ways. They can call on people of the state to rally, to provide aid and assistance to the affected communities. Or, they can try to build some sort of firewall between the affected communities and everyone else, try to insure that everyone else is protected from any effects, any cost created by the affected communities. The citizens of a state are like mountain climbers roped together and hanging onto the side of a precipice. When one loses his grip (either because of accident, weather conditions, or because he was pushed), the others can either try to haul him back up, risking trouble themselves, or they can cut the dangler loose. If they’re extra cynical, they can sell the dangler an umbrella “to break his fall,” and congratulate themselves on having saved him before they cut him loose.
Michigan’s leaders have treated the tragedy and decline of Detroit as an opportunity to sell umbrellas. They have stripped poor non-white citizens of democratic processes, of their very voices, while stripping critical systems like education and water for parts. The ship has been sinking and Michigan’s leaders have decided to fill the lifeboats with bundles of cash rather than human beings.
Reformers are willing to try anything, except spending more money to repair this woeful district. In Detroit, children of the state of Michigan have been used as guinea pigs for every faddish idea.