Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Building A Better Educational System by Akindele Akinyemi


While Liberals, A-Teams and paranoid Black people across Detroit screaming about the loss of affirmative action it's time we focus our energy on educational reform to help our students compete in a 21st century job market.

In order for us to establish Black Regional Power with conservative values we must begin to open the discussion on establishing educational empowerment zones in urban communities across Metro Detroit.

Unlike grassroots activists who are determined to save Detroit Public Schools without any plan research demonstrates to our community that parents want to live where they have access to educational choices. The declining quality of urban public schools in Metro Detroit has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of residents in recent decades. Poor school quality and teacher union control is one of the most important obstacles to revitalization Michigan's troubled inner cities.

The creation of Education Empowerment Zones (EEZs) in Michigan's major cities as part of a strategy to reestablish the competitive advantage of the inner city. Combining charter schools and authorizing tax credits, EEZs could lead revitalization efforts by enticing middle-income families with children back into the inner city.

Why have a discussion on EEZs in Metro Detroit where schools are failing? Today in Michigan we should be pushing for a high-prosperity Michigan. Our children should be taught knowledge-based enterprises in our schools. There is a clear pattern across the country that the states, and particularly metropolitan areas, with the most successful economies are those that are concentrated in high-pay, knowledge based industries: information, financial services and insurance, professional and technical services, and management of companies.

Michigan lawmakers and grassroots activists need to think outside the box to improve the cities.’ educational opportunities and make them more attractive to middle class families. Given the slow pace of traditional public school improvement, educational quality will have to increase through a “supply side” improvement - expanding the number of quality school alternatives within the cities. This can occur in at least three ways:

Expanding educational opportunity in traditional public schools by capitalizing on existing magnet and neighborhood schools, or converting existing schools to Charter Schools.

Expandinon-traditionalnal public education alternatives such as raising the cap off charter schools will help develop competition with traditional public schools.

Expanding private school options for all city residents through private scholarships.

Increasing school quality will have a positive effect on The City of Detroit as well neighboringing urban communities. This will help places like Inkster and Ecorse becomes a more attractive place to live. We would expect to see an increase in middle-class families with children and less segregation by income.

As more middle-income residents are retained or move into the city because of the availability of options to attend the school of their choice, the average income of a city resident should increase over time. This would have a positive impact on the income tax revenues collected by the city.

Housing values in Detroit and neighboring urban communities will also increase as a result of new families moving into urban areas in Metro Detroit. It is important, however, for urban areas to have as high a residential property tax base as possible so that any future tax levies would be at the lowest rate possible. Lower tax rates will help Metro Detroit's urban areas compete in a global marketplace.

A child-centered funding system in Detroit that provides parents with the flexibility to choose the school their child attends —be it a traditional public school, a charter school, or a private school —would be a significant factor in convincing middle-class families to stay in the city or, if they live in the suburbs, to move back into the city.

Consider the decision-making process of a young family in Detroit whose oldest child is getting close to school age. By giving families the opportunity to choose from among all Detroit schools (public, private, or charter), lawmakers will be dramatically increasing the quality of the schools that, in the mind of homebuyers, are associated with buying a house in the city.

Thus, the immediate effect of increasing educational opportunities will be to increase the attractiveness of living in the city for people with children. The secondary effects on neighborhoods and economic vitality in the city discussed earlier, while slightly more difficult to estimate, provide compelling reasons why the expansion of education alternatives has to happen now, so that these long run secondary effects can begin to occur.

Part of the educational empowerment zones should also include Tuition Tax Credits. Under this option, parents would receive a dollar for dollar reduction in their Michigan State Income Tax liability for every dollar spent on tuition, up to a limit of one-half of the per pupil expenditure in the public school system, or 80 percent of the private school tuition, whichever is smaller. However, not just parents get this benefit. Individuals who pay others’ tuition would get the same tax credit. Corporations would receive a 100 percent tax credit for money donated to fund scholarships. Thus, students whose families are too poor to pay a significant amount of state income tax and who therefore could not take advantage of a tax credit, could nevertheless receive a scholarship funded by tax credits.

You see brothers and sisters, affirmative action is gone in Michigan but not our dignity and creativity. We must continue to strive for educational reform in our communities. There are some who are fighting us on this already to keep their archaic educational system in place, yet, they will not step up to the plate with solutions to the problems that are killing our school system

While people are gearingarning up for another Detroit School Board race that means nothing (because nothing different will happen) we must keep the course and stay on target with building educational empowerment zones in our communitiesunites in Metro Detroit.

We welcome any Granholm-ites, Michigan Young Democrats, Michigan Young Republicans, ultra-conservative Black Republicans or grassroots activists to give your input on this critical matter.




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