Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Coalition To Embrass Detroit Public Schools by Akindele Akinyemi


I was at a meeting called the Coalition for Better Detroit Public Schools at the Northwest Activity Center in Detroit. The whole goal of this so-called "Coalition" is to improve Detroit Public Schools by starting to identify a better "superintendent" then the finalist that were already chosen by the Detroit School Board.

I knew this was a circus when I saw Rev. Horace Shefield and Dr. Samuel Bullock at the table. Samuel Bullock is the President of the Council of Baptist Pastors. Also was present was School Board members Rev. David Murray, Marie Thornton, Paula Johnson and Jonathon Kinloch, Minister Malik Shabazz, Helen Moore, Rev. Lloyd Lester, and Ernest Johnson of the Community Coalition.

The audience was made up mostly of Black Nationalists/Grassroots activists who only came to be part of the circus and not part of the solution.

As usual there were hardly any young people at this event. Just old folks blaming charter schools for the failure of Detroit Public Schools.

When will Black liberals wake up and realize that competition is necessary for build up a better school system? It is interesting that these old people had no vision and no ideas to create a better school system.

There were two highlights. One was the fight that was getting ready to take place between Lawrence X and John Telford and (2) how on one hand Marie Thornton got up and told the audience that she was not supporting William Coleman for "superintendent" and how Paula Johnson would support Coleman. Not one time we heard anything about strategies on how to retain children in the schools. No talk on curriculum, direction or retaining teachers in the district.

However, I did visibly noticed how all of these paid for TV actors who were speaking last night did not touch the teacher unions. 53% of the money for public education is CONTROLLED by federal & state bureaucracies - immune from parental influence at the local school district level. Further, such power provides a focused, centralized 'playground' for unions, social do-gooders and bureaucratic central planners to leverage their narrow interests, without answering to world-class quality, local school boards, parents and local taxpayers - - plus self-serving resistance to change.

I wonder why these liberals attacked charters but stayed away from the teacher unions. Could the Council of Baptist Pastors be paid off by the teacher unions?

These so called leaders in our community do not have a clue on how to save Detroit Public Schools. We should not even listen to them for direction. Don't they realize that the larger the school the greater the rate of crime, violence, discipline problems, absenteeism and tardiness?

If you want to save Detroit Public Schools (even though I do not) our people should consider the following:

  • Downsize all federal and state education bureaucracies by at least 95%. Any funding remaining at these levels shall only be used to consolidate school performance and test results and spending per student data, via reports to the public at regular intervals during each year. Resulting savings shall be funneled to local school districts, without strings on a per-student formula basis.

  • Restructure DPS such that the size of each does not exceed some rationale of proven good practice when test scores were rising rapidly. Small school districts and small schools are preferable to large organizations. The elected local school board shall be the only authority involving its schools, without restriction or mandate from any governmental level.

  • Revenue now flowing first through federal and/or state bureaucracies must be channeled direct to local school districts, without strings attached.

  • Eliminate non-local generated regulations regarding schools. It is recognized that schools must meet local ordinances for health, safety and discrimination issues. But, regulations should not be directed to schools differently than directed to the balance of society at large.

  • Restrict national union influence of local school board policies, such that all officers must be a full-time resident within the school's district.

  • Once local school districts are in complete control as above, maximum efforts to privatize as many services as possible should be under-taken - - including 'make-or buy' decisions concerning privatizing of some teaching functions or complete schools. The main objective of each school board must be the best education quality for the lowest cost - - and without concern as to whether educators are employees of said board or of non-government schools receiving said resources.

  • Employment of teachers: without tenure or compensation packages exceeding that in the surrounding non-government schooling sector - exceptions granted for skills in short supply in math and hard sciences.

  • Non-teaching employees per student should not exceed that of surrounding non-government schooling sector.

  • Each school board should adopt a waiver appeals rule such that parents under certain conditions may have their child transferred to any other public or private school in that district that will enhance education quality. Approved transfers shall be together with a grant for the average per student cost saved.

  • Each district, and each school within a district, shall hold monthly parent-teacher meetings, with all parents invited and encouraged to participate.

  • School boards shall adopt strict standards for passing each grade, and the assignment of letter grades - - with reports issued monthly for parent signature. So called 'social promotions' must be eliminated at all levels.

  • Local school boards shall be free of any other higher authority in adopting discipline standards, strictly established as to minimize obstruction to the main reason for the existence of schools: for learning.

  • Each school will encourage all students to take standardized tests, and make freely available to all parents and the community the average test score history of said school compared to other public and private schools and national averages for such standardized tests as SAT, NEA, international test series, etc. And, each parent shall know where their child stands in this regard.
So while the deaf, dumb and blind were the stars of this "meeting" to get publicity my One Network (under the One Choice Movement) is moving forward with a grass­roots movement that is slowly gathering force that may transform the politics of Michigan education. Its human face is not White but Black; its resources few but its determination strong. And its goal is freedom. Although most black political leaders still actively oppose vouchers and charter schools, my Network is seeing how the constituents are growing increasingly angry at the public schools' disastrous record of teaching black children. As a result, black parents, pastors, local officials, and civil rights leaders are beginning to embrace school vouchers, charter schools, and other reforms that offer alternatives to dismal public schools. All this right here in Michigan.

We do not need a coalition to save Detroit Public Schools. We need to design what is known as a educational empowerment zone. I have been talking about this for quite some time now. We have African Americans who believe that academic achievement is the key to their economic independence. They want schools that involve them in their children's education while imposing high standards and strict discipline, and they reject the notion that poverty somehow renders parents less interested in their children's academic well­being. As their numbers swell, teachers unions will find it increasingly difficult to hold back reforms that offer black children a better chance.

This will only come from educational choice. Detroit Public Schools must close those 52 schools and some of those schools need to become charters. Anyone who says this is not the way is lying to you and anyone who injects race into the equation is misleading young urban conservatives to hell.

Remember Dick DeVos? He wanted educational options while Granholm opposes vouchers, charters, homeschooling and any other type of educational choice. Why? Militant opposition to choice stems from the influence of large, monied teachers unions, which see any choice outside the public schools as a threat to their monopoly.

Some race baiters argue that the education establishment opposes school choice for a very basic reason: self-­preservation. One of the strongest reasons why the civil rights establishment opposes choice is economic. They strongly feel that competition and privatization will leave them out in the cold. Public schools employ a large portion of the African ­American professional community; some of them may view school choice and charter schools as programs designed to rob them of tenured jobs.

Will saving jobs justify depriving innocent children of a quality education? To answer this question, these leaders ought to talk to students and their parents, visit the neighborhood private schools these children could go to, and perform a cost ­benefit analysis of the savings associated with sending children to these schools. Once you do this, you can't help but become a believer in school choice. Period.

So let not waste time trying to save Detroit Public Schools. We need a Coalition to Expand Educational Choices in urban communities across Michigan.

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