Education Reform: Kill the rhetoric
This week, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced plans to establish more charter and private schools in the city. This is a turning point for Detroit and no matter where you live, the vitality of the inner-cities across America will hinge upon how we address the lack of quality education.
For historical context, in 2004, Detroit voters voted against a proposal to allow the mayor to have more control over how the schools were run. This proposal would have allowed Detroit residents to select “nine members, who would each represent specific districts; four members would serve two-year terms, five members would serve four-year terms, starting in 2006. Under this system, the mayor nominates a CEO to run the district; final approval rests with the board. The board would have limited fiduciary oversight, including budget approval, annual audits and review of contracts exceeding $250,000 and would need the mayor’s approval to fire the CEO.”
Currently the Detroit School Board is an 11-member governing body of the DPS system. Four of the members are elected at large. The others are elected by District. The Board is responsible for hiring a superintendent that serves at the Board’s pleasure, along with setting policy and curriculum, overseeing budgets, contracts, labor relations and day-to-day operations.
With context out of the way, it should be noted that mayors all across the country, (Chicago, New York, D.C., and Los Angeles) have or are taking steps to shoulder responsibility for their school districts. As for results while school scores have crept up in some cities that have mayoral control the impact is diluted by similar increases in school districts without mayoral control.
The reality is that it doesn’t really matter how we govern our schools as it does how we teach OUR kids.
With that said, Kilpatrick’s efforts to get more charter and private schools will be seen as an abandonment of the public school system because if successful, this expansion will further draw students away from DPS. And with recent tabling of having to close schools, many parents are extremely frustrated with the Detroit school district.
To his credit, Kwame has accurately emphasized that, “You can’t continue to build a city if you don’t have places for people to go to school.”
I couldn’t agree with him more. The fact is that I and many other education observers have said something to the effect, “We just need to destroy public education as we know it and start from scratch.” While this is a reasonable plea, it is not politically feasible and will not happen for a long time. Do you agree with the Mayor’s plan to increase charter and private schools? What would you do if you were a mayor trying to build a fledgling city with a crumbling school system?
Let me know what you think,
Stay up fam,