Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Urban Conservatives Should Embrace Educational Empowerment by Akndele Akinyemi



As Gov. Jennifer Granholm is fresh off her piss poor and ridiculous State of the State speech last night she continues her warfare on educational choice. She has not looked at the deplorable conditions that are going on in Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint and Saginaw. Our children are dropping out of school in record numbers and while all of this is going on there is more chaos on the horizon as Rep. Lamar Lemmons Jr. (D-Detroit) wants to move the Detroit School Board elections back to 2008 instead of this summer.

Are we fighting for our civil rights for educational choice or we are preparing for a educational civil war?

During her State of the State speech she made no mention of giving parents a clear choice to where parents should send their children to. With the Michigan Promise scholarships she promised $4000 for every student who values his/her life walking the halls of doom in these failing public high schools in urban Michigan. This false promise is for those students who attend failing public schools NOT for those who attend charter schools.

Also, I am receiving phone calls from people who NOW see why Dick DeVos was the better choice for Governor than Granholm. Some Democrats who called me are finally admitting that I have been right all along and they were caught up in the emotions.

What Urban Conservatives should be moving towards right now as I write this is pushing ahead for a revolutionary form of charter schools in urban regions across Michigan. From Benton Harbor to Detroit we should be organizing our troops to mass educate on why charters are the answer and leave this inept, criminal school system alone.

The truth of the matter is we have so many parents who are tired of fighting the bureaucracy. We need schools that are completely outside the system. Many have been asking this network "How do you dismantle a bureaucracy?"

My response? The advent of educational empowerment zones in urban depressed areas like Detroit, Benton Harbor and Inkster would bring in the light. Research shows that parents want to live where they have access to good schools. The declining quality of Michigan's urban public schools, among other factors, has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of residents in recent years. Poor school quality may be one of the most important obstacles to revitalizing Michigan's troubled inner cities.

It is time for Michigan lawmakers 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 specialized charter schools;


􀂙 Expanding nontraditional public education alternatives such as Charter Schools through new school start-ups; or


􀂙 Expanding private school options for all city residents through scholarships or tax credits.


Increasing choice in Michigan's urban areas will increase the academic achievement of students switching out of the public schools, as parents are able to take advantage of the availability of expanded high-quality education opportunities. Private and Charter Schools are smaller, more nurturing environments, and a significant body of research has shown that students do better academically and socially in smaller schools.

More importantly, economic theory and empirical results indicate that the expansion of non-traditional public school enrollment will have a “competition effect” and students in the traditional public schools will do better on objective measures of student performance.

Add this on with pushing for alternative teacher certification requirements in Michigan and now we can begin to stop the brain drain that has been plaguing our state for quite some time now.

Increased education quality has an important, positive general impact on cities as well. This is most clearly evident in housing values. A study of several school districts in six Michigan metropolitan areas found that better education significantly boosted housing values after factoring out the influence of characteristics such as race, crime rate, tax rate, house size, number and kinds of rooms, and the time of sale.

You see where Granholm missed the boat on education?

I have been saying all along that educational choice is a fight that all Urban Conservatives should be on board with. With the teacher unions becoming more older and weaker in their approach to education we are in an excellent position to make things happen both in the Michigan Legislature and on the grassroots level.

The major cities in Michigan face many problems at present, but surely among the most pressing has to be the poor quality of their public schools. The continued migration of the middle-class into the suburbs only compounds this problem, lowering the tax base and removing many students with a high level of parental involvement. This situation will continue unabated if nothing is done. If this vicious cycle is to be broken, inaction is simply not an option.

Urban Conservatives should also be talking about restructuring traditional municipal education systems through the creation of Education Empowerment Zones will break that cycle by linking city residents to all the schools located in the city. The benefits of this approach include greater economic integration, long-term savings, and increased student learning. Increasing the exposure to Charter and private schools will have the effect of improving the quality of education across the board. Charter and private school students will benefit from expanded high-quality educational opportunities and the students remaining in the public schools will be better off as the public schools respond positively to declining market share. Fiscally, there would be long-term savings for taxpayers, as Charter Schools and private schools educate students at a significant discount.

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