According to a Detroit Free Press report, the effort to “improve” the Detroit Public Schools district has now resulted in more than half of the city being without a comprehensive DPS high school.
And while retired crappy car executive Roy Roberts may crow about news that the district ended the school year with a nearly $12-million surplus, any enthusiasm over this should be quickly tempered by the fact that the district will be spending about 14 percent of its state aid on repaying debts, not serving students.
The $784-million budget for 2012-13 relies on cutting 1,889 positions and reimposing a 10% wage cut on all employees except food service assistants. It also increases class sizes from 30 to 33 for Grades 4 and 5 and from 35 to 38 in Grades 6 through 12.
The 2011-12 school year will end with an $11.9-million surplus, but DPS will continue to carry an $80-million deficit from prior years and continue to pay on about $500 million in long-term loans the district accumulated to try to cover past deficits.
DPS projects it will enroll 49,852 students for next school year, a decline of about 25% in one year because the district plans to close buildings and transfer 15 schools to the new statewide district.
So despite the drop in enrollment, class sizes will balloon and teachers will earn less. Not exactly a recipe for educational triumph.
Even worse, though, is the accelerated push to turn even more Detroit schools over to charter- and contract-school operators. While no one argues whether charters should have a place in the district, there is indeed plenty of debate over just how significant that role should be.
And there is absolutely no evidence that suggests that pushing nearly 40 percent of Detroit students into charters will improve the schools in one of the nation’s most education-strapped big cities.
There also needs to be intense scrutiny over whom Roberts gives these old DPS schools over to. In the past, charter applications have been submitted by the likes of opportunist ministers and “businessmen” such as Robert Shumake, a scummy real-estate developer who has lied about his credentials, been at the center of controversy involving the Detroit pension fund and been sued by Fifth Third Bank for an alleged role in what reports described as a $10-million fraud plot.
When Roberts claims to want to reform education in Detroit, concerned parents need to make sure he doesn’t do it by giving away schools to lowlifes and hustlers who will take the money and watch as our children continue to flunk out and fail.
Roberts’ plan allows DPS to become a boutique district with a handful of decent schools such as Cass Tech—allowing the bad-exec-turned-worse-EM to crow even louder about his half-assed “successes.”
But as the plan is unfolding now, the remainder of the city school kids—that is to say most of them—would be pawned off on the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (a sort of “holding cell” for bad schools) or shoveled into charter institutions that too often have no track record of success and lack oversight.
So the school operators get paid off of students’ bodies. The media get to fabricate shallow stories of an educational “turnaround.” And Roberts gets to say he balanced a budget and boosted performance in a district that was failing miserably.
Everyone wins—except the children, of course.