Archives for category: Detroit

Detroit is emblematic of a city where choice has gone mad, and children bounce from school to school, forming no attachment to friends or teachers.

What kind of cruel adults inflict this disruption and chaos on small children?

Here is an article with typical non-solutions.

A unified enrollment system to make it simpler to switch schools. More data, so schools know more about those they admit.

How about stable and well-resourced community schools with wraparound services, experienced teachers, a social worker, a psychologist, a library, arts programs, more like the LeBron James school in Akron? How about public schools so rich in people and programs that no one wants to switch?

This is the portrait of “choice” in Detroit.

It is a disaster for children. They constantly change schools.

There are 31 students in class 8B in Bethune Middle School. Collectively, these students have attended 128 schools.

Their parents choose and choose and choose.

Most students have attended four or five different schools by the time they are in eighth grade.

Does anyone believe this instability, disruption, and churn are good for children?

Here is Jan Resseger’s commentary: She says that choice “accelerates student mobility, stresses educators, and undermines education.” As the embedded article shows, the more frequently students change schools by eighth grade, the lower their scores on the state’s annual tests.

Is it helpful to have no long-term, reliable relationships with friends or teachers?

Would Betsy DeVos do this to her children?

What do you think?

Just when you think you have heard everything that can go wrong in the charter industry, along comes a story about the Detroit Community Schools, a charter that is in chaos. Not because of its 650 students, but because of the adults who are allegedly upin charge.

Bay Mills Community College, the authorizer for the charter, fired the chief administrative officer, but she refuses to leave.

“Former Detroit City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail was fired Monday as the chief administrative officer of a troubled Detroit charter school, but she’s refusing to leave.

“McPhail was terminated by Bay Mills Community College, the authorizer for Detroit Community Schools.

“She’s not cooperating,” said Tom Shields, the spokesman for the college. “She is saying Bay Mills has no legal grounds” to fire her.

“Consequently, Shields said, “Bay Mills will be seeking a court order to have her removed.”

“McPhail’s firing is among a series of steps the college is taking to address issues caused by McPhail’s failure to maintain the proper school administrative certification by the state.

The college also announced that the school board has been temporarily suspended. And a conservator has been appointed to oversee the school.

“The Free Press in September reported that for the second time in two years, the Michigan Department of Education had fined the school because McPhail lacked proper certification. District leaders in Michigan must have an administrative certification, which requires either a master’s degree or completion of credit hours toward a master’s degree.

”The MDE has fined the school more than $200,000. Officials said at the time of the Free Press report that the department had collected $100,188 from the school, but it still owed $122,387 in fines.”

In addition to administrative turmoil, the school is in academic distress:

“Detroit Community Schools, which opened in 1997, serves about 650 students in grades K-12. Students at the school have struggled academically: Just 7 percent of the school’s elementary and middle school students are proficient in all subjects on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, compared with 40 percent statewide, according to data on At the high school, 22 percent were proficient in all subjects, compared with 40 percent statewide.”

Just to add a twist of the bizarre:

“In addition to her stint as a city councilwoman, McPhail served as general counsel for former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is serving a 28-year prison sentence for federal corruption crimes.

“McPhail, who has run for Detroit mayor before, was a frequent foe of Kilpatrick’s until shortly before she was hired as his counsel in 2006. In 2003 — when she was on the council — she accused Kilpatrick of being behind the tampering of the electric back massager on her chair, calling him a thug and bully and saying the tampering was in retaliation for her refusing to back a deal pushed by Kilpatrick’s administration. Though it was reported by multiple news outlets at the time — and investigated by police — she denied ever making the claim during a radio interview in 2008.”

Only days into the new school year, the Detroit Delta Preparatory Academy for Social Justice announced that it was closing, stunning students and parents. Enrollment was lower than expected, and the school was not financially viable, according to its authorizer, Ferris State University.

The decision left many of the high school’s students in tears.

“Everybody was breaking down,” said Ajah Jenkins, 17, a senior at the school, which had just begun its fifth year of operation.

Ajah called her mother, Kelye King, “crying, hysterical, screaming, saying, ‘My school’s closing. How am I going to graduate,’ ” King recounted.

Saturday is supposed to be the school’s homecoming. It’s unclear whether it’ll still happen, said King, who is upset because she believes the school should have given parents a heads-up that this might happen.

“I’m just disappointed. I entrusted her education to a group of people — they’re making me feel like I failed her, like I didn’t do enough research.”

The other day, we learned that a charter school in Delaware was closing with no prior notice.

That’s the market for you. Stores open and close without warning.

Schools are not supposed to be like that. They are supposed to be a public service that is always there for the students.

Maybe the market for schools is saturated. After all, you can’t expect to open a shoe store on every corner and expect them all to thrive or survive.

You might want to remember this statistic the next time you hear a Reformer claim that charter schools enroll the same demographic as public schools.

In Detroit, the public schools are 22 times more likely to enroll children with autism than are charter schools.

The charter schools have to protect their test scores, so they don’t want those children.

Here is a sickening decision, indicative of Trump-era thinking:

“On Friday, dumped out with the least desirable news of the week came word that a lawsuit arguing that Detroit students were being denied an education had been dismissed.

“Perhaps you remember the case. MT presented a cover story about it last year. With the help of a public interest law firm, a handful of Detroit students charged in federal court that educational officials in Michigan — including Gov. Rick Snyder — denied them access to an education of any quality.

“The lawsuit took pains to illustrate how Detroit’s schools — run under a state-appointed emergency manager — were a welter of dysfunction: overcrowded classrooms, lack of textbooks and basic materials, unqualified staff, leaking roofs, broken windows, black mold, contaminated drinking water, rodents, no pens, no paper, no toilet paper, and unsafe temperatures that had classes canceled due to 90-degree heat or classrooms so cold students could see their breath.

“At times, without teachers or instructional materials, students were simply herded into rooms and asked to watch videos. One student claimed to have learned all the words to the film Frozen in high school. The lawsuit even mentions one eighth grade student who “taught” a seventh and eighth grade math class for a month because no teacher could be found.”

Jan Resseger reports on a startling development in Michigan. She quotes the new superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools, who just completed his first year on the job. His words are inspiring. He is actually fighting for the kids and the public schools. Dr. Nikolai Vitti was chosen by Detroit’s elected school board in 2017, after years of disastrous state control, led by people who enabled erosion of the public schools and the advance of privatization.

She writes:

Dr. Nikolai Vitti was their choice, and last week at the end of his first year on the job, at a conference sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, he confronted the dogma of Michigan’s power establishment—Rick Snyder, the DeVos family and all the rest.

The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss reprinted part of Dr. Vitti’s remarks: “People often ask me, ‘What were you most surprised about when you took the job and started to work in the system?’ And I often say I was shocked, horrified at the lack of systems and processes for traditional public education. Traditional public education has always been, and hopefully will always be, the vehicle for social change, for social justice, for equal opportunity in this country. And walking into the system and seeing a lack of systems and processes is a testament to the lack of belief in what children can do.”

Vitti continued: “And there is a racist element to what has happened. Children in Detroit have been treated like second-class citizens. When a system is allowed to be run over a decade by individuals, and it’s not about one individual, but individuals that had no track record of education reform, no local governance structure to address immediate concerns and issues by the community through an elected board… and year after year of low performance, a lack of growth, drop in enrollment, facilities that are not kept up, that would never ever happen in any white suburban district in this country. And that is a testament of race. Because this country would not allow that. We see signs of that in Flint and we saw signs of that in New Orleans after the flood and we have multiple examples of this.”

Resseger quotes a column written by Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press, who served as moderator for the panel discussion at Mackinac Island. Her column was titled “Miracle on Mackinac Island: Business Community Gets Woke to Race.”

She said that the meeting may have been “a watershed moment in Michigan history.” For once, the power structure got a lesson about racism and the treatment of children in Detroit as second-class citizens.

Speaking to the state’s white power structure, Vitti pulled no punches:

His words drew loud and sustained applause. But Vitti also said something that drew tears. When I, as moderator of the forum, asked him to speak to the assembled crowd as an 8-year-old third-grader and tell them what he wants, he looked out and said:

“I want the same thing that your child wants,” he said to loud applause. “I may not have your privilege. I may not have the color of your skin. I may live in a different ZIP code. But I want the exact same thing you want for your son, your daughter, your grandchild, your niece, your nephew. That’s what I want.”

The Michigan legislature keeps piling on mandates, but with no support to reach them, she wrote.

The Michigan Legislature has scared some parents and teachers to distraction with a new law banning schools from promoting third-graders who do not read at grade level. Nine of 10 third-graders in the city schools do not read at grade level. And some parents and teachers feel the law will exacerbate an existing third-grade-to-unemployment pipeline similar to the fourth-grade-to-prison pipeline that already exists.

The shame is this is yet another example of the state attempting to polish its reputation at the expense of our children. Rather than help districts find ways to improve, then raise standards, the Legislature keeps raising standards without any support to make meeting them possible. One would think that legislators are trying to make public schools fail to make it easier to increase the number of charters across Michigan, but nah, that couldn’t be it, right?

Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan said that all of Michigan was in trouble, not only Detroit, because of bad leadership at the state level:

“We know the history. We had 10 years of state-appointed emergency managers,” Duggan said. “During that time, we lost half of the enrollment. … They eliminated career technical education, eliminated art, eliminated music … and all that happened was children continued to leave. … But this isn’t just Detroit.”

He cited National Assessment of Educational Progress scores that tell a larger story.

“For white students in the state of Michigan, fourth-grade math and reading level, in 2013 we were 14th in the country,” he said. “Last year — 46th in the country. Now, if you sat down in 2013 and said how can I sabotage Michigan’s future? … I’m not sure you could have accomplished it.”

Duggan said the state chose tax cuts over children, which was a mistake.

Michigan’s leaders (think Betsy DeVos, who has played a major role in state education policy, pushing charters) thought that they could fix the schools by adopting school choice while cutting taxes.

It didn’t work.

Now, let’s see how the power structure responds. Are they able to change course or will they double down on failure?


Michigan has a major problem. Test scores on NAEP and state exams have fallen signicantly over the past decade for every demographic, the state spends $1 Billion on charter schools with no accountability, Detroit is the worst performing city in the nation on NAEP.

The leaders of the state’s business community looked at the crisis and decided that the state needs to stick to its current policies and do more of the same. but with greater intensity.

Clearly, the business elite decided to ignore studies such as this one by Professor David Arsen of Michigan State University, which concluded that state policies promoting competition and choice were causing fiscal stress and instability in traditional districts. Even a small parasite can do terrible damage to a large body.


This story was published in 2016. It remains the best single description of the chaos that free-market advocates have inflicted on the children of Detroit.

Please read it. Don’t skim it. Read it.

Detroit is a city with many choices and very few good choices. It is a city overrun with charter schools. Many of them operate for profit. The companies profit, the children lose.

“Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.

”Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.

“While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.

“Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.

“The point was to raise all schools,” said Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a civic group formed after the 1967 race riots here. “Instead, we’ve had a total and complete collapse of education in this city…”

“The 1993 state law permitting charter schools was not brought on by academic or financial crisis in Detroit — those would come later — but by a free-market-inclined governor, John Engler. An early warrior against public employee unions, he embraced the idea of creating schools that were publicly financed but independently run to force public schools to innovate.

“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.

“For-profit companies seized on the opportunity; they now operate about 80 percent of charters in Michigan, far more than in any other state. The companies and those who grant the charters became major lobbying forces for unfettered growth of the schools, as did some of the state’s biggest Republican donors.

“Sometimes, they were one and the same, as with J. C. Huizenga, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur who founded Michigan’s largest charter school operator, the for-profit National Heritage Academies. Two of the biggest players in Michigan politics, Betsy and Dick DeVos — she the former head of the state Republican Party, he the heir to the Amway fortune and a 2006 candidate for governor — established the Great Lakes Education Project, which became the state’s most pugnacious protector of the charter school prerogative…

”Operators were lining up to get into the city, and in 2011, after a conservative wave returned the governor’s office and the Legislature to Republican control for the first time in eight years, the Legislature abolished a cap that had limited the number of charter schools that universities could create to 150.

“Some charter school backers pushed for a so-called smart cap that would allow only successful charters to expand. But they could not agree on what success should look like, and ultimately settled for assurances from lawmakers that they could add quality controls after the cap was lifted.

“In fact, the law repealed a longstanding requirement that the State Department of Education issue yearly reports monitoring charter school performance.

“At the same time, the law included a provision that seemed to benefit Mr. Huizenga, whose company profits from buying buildings and renting them back to the charters it operates. Earlier that year he had lost a tax appeal in which he argued that a for-profit company should not have to pay taxes on properties leased to schools. The new law granted for-profit charter companies the exemption he had sought.

“Just as universities were allowed to charter more schools, Gov. Rick Snyder created a state-run district, with new charters, to try to turn around the city’s worst schools. Detroit was soon awash in choice, but not quality.

“Twenty-four charter schools have opened in the city since the cap was lifted in 2011. Eighteen charters whose existing schools were at or below the district’s dismal performance expanded or opened new schools…

”With about $1.1 billion in state tax dollars going to charter schools, those that grant the charters get about $33 million. Those institutions are often far from the schools; one, Bay Mills Community College, is in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, nearly 350 miles away — as far from Detroit as Portland, Me., is from New York City…

”“People here had so much confidence in choice and choice alone to close the achievement gap,” said Amber Arellano, the executive director of the Education Trust Midwest, which advocates higher academic standards. “Instead, we’re replicating failure.”

Some children have attended three, four, five different charters. They compete for the kids and the money.

When there was a bipartisan effort in the legislature to establish accountability, the DeVos family fought it and won.




When she delivered her keynote remarks to the National PTA, Betsy DeVos took potshots at 60 Minutes, claiming the show edited her remarks. She apparently did not explain in what way she was misquoted.

“So, now that I have the opportunity to speak unedited, I’m not afraid to call out folks who defend stagnation for what it really is: failure,” she said, criticizing those who are against school choice given that U.S. students are ranked 40th in math, 23rd in reading and 25th in science compared to other countries.

“The Education secretary is a proponent of school choice, which encompasses policies such as letting students attend religious or charter schools with public funding.”

DeVos did not acknowledge that the US placed dead last in the first international assessment in 1964.

She did not acknowledge that the US was never a high scoring nation and typically scores around the median.

She did not acknowledge that test scores are the result of child poverty and that any effort to raise test scores must address as child poverty.

She did not acknowledge that the US is #1 in child poverty among the OECD nations.

She refuses to acknowledge that school choice does not produce higher test scores. On the whole, school choice lowers test scores. The prime example of the effects of school choice is Michigan, where NAEP scores have fallen since Betsy DeVos’s choice policies were imposed. The other examples are Milwaukee and Detroit, which demonstrate the null impact of choice. Milwaukee has charters, vouchers, and public schools that must take the kids the choice schools don’t want. Detroit has loads of charters. Both are among the lowest scoring urban districts tested by NAEP.

She has an agenda, but it has already failed. She is an ideologue and zealot, who pays no attention to evidence, not even in her own state.

She would destroy public education if it were in her power. But we will stop her. She is already an object of ridicule. It won’t get better.