Friday, July 18, 2008

Are We Rewarding Failure? by Akindele Akinyemi

Detroit is corrupt from all the way around. Now this corruption has taken a new life in Lansing.

Anytime I get a phone call from the State Capitol and hear about how the Michigan Senate passes a half-assed School Aid Bill I am preparing to vomit.

Maybe we should follow the lead of Leon Drolet of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance and recall some of these inept Detroit lawmakers who do not understand education and economics. I do not even care for recalls but maybe it's time we recalled some people. How long do we need to talk to these people before they get it?

SB 1107 (FY 2009 School Aid Budget) was passed with a vote of 31-4 yesterday. This bill will continue to protect Detroit Public Schools First Class District status which means they will not lose any funding.

My question is where is the ethics involved in this passage of the bill? Why are we rewarding failure? According to Sen. Wayne Kuipers, Nancy Cassis, and Tony Stamas (which none of these lawmakers are from Detroit) took the Christian approach to voting and stood on core principles and voted no on this bill. If they ever decide to run for higher office I will be in their corner.

Meanwhile, all five State Senators from Detroit voted YES on this bill knowing damn well they would never in a billion years send their children to DPS. For example:

(1) State Sen. Irma Clark-Coleman sent her own daughter to Lutheran High West (which is now Detroit Urban Lutheran) on the city's west side. Yet, this woman is against charter schools.

(2) Sen. Buzz Thomas is a 1987 graduate from Detroit Country Day. He later graduated from University of Penn (UPENN) an Ivy League school. Yet, he is against charter schools.

(3) Sen. Tupac Hunter is a 1991 graduate from U-D High School in Detroit, a prestigious Jesuit high school.

However, there are some things to look up at. If we do an examination of the Michigan School Code (which 95% of our educational leaders in schools statewide never read in their careers) we would find this:

380.402 First class school district.

Sec. 402. A school district that has a pupil membership of at least 100,000 enrolled on the most recent pupil membership count day is a first class school district governed by this part.

What our lawmakers are trying to do in Lansing is run this on people:


Sen. Wayne Kuipers said this:

Those of you who have looked at this will recognize that we make a new distinction here when it involves describing the size of a first-class district. Under current law, a first-class district is the size of 100,000 students or more. The distinction of a first-class district in the school aid act that we are about to vote on lowers that number from 100,000 to 60,000. That is a fairly significant gift for the city of Detroit, a gift in which we get nothing in return; we get no promise of clean audits, we get no promise of restructuring a very bloated central administration; we get no promise of reducing the number of collective bargaining units that currently is at about 100 districts wide; we get no deficit reduction plan, so that we know how the district is going to work its way out of their $400 million deficit.

Over the last year in anticipation of this day I have had a number of parents from the city of Detroit come in my office begging me that we not adopt a business as usual strategy, when it comes to the funding plan for the school district in the city of Detroit. Many parents over the last number of years have voted with their feet, which is evidence in the fact that the district is dropping in size from well over a 160,000 to next year likely being below 100,000. The problem is, there aren’t enough options available for parents who want to exercise their right to choose a district for their kids.

By our passing this school aid budget today, we send a message to those parents that we don’t care about their kids, and I think that is a terrible message for us to send. We have an opportunity to get that district’s attention in a way that we never have before and we are letting that opportunity pass by.

You would think that Sen. Clark-Coleman would join in this line of protest. Her explanation of rejecting this bill was different.

While I am reluctant to vote against a bill that funds the public schools in my district there are several things about this conference report that I simply can not support. Current law allows Detroit Public Schools some control over other districts opening schools within their district boundaries. This report takes away that veto power from the Detroit Public Schools. This move will further contribute to the declining enrollment that the district is currently experiencing.

Furthermore, both the Senate and the House versions of the budget included increases for the Detroit and Grand Rapids pre-college engineering program. Yet, this conference report does not include that increase. This Legislature continues to hamper the efforts of the Detroit Public Schools to improve educational opportunities for its students. There is no continued investment in a program like DAPCEP that absolutely works, for that reason I will be voting “no” on this school aid bill.

Her reason has nothing to do with sound core ethics but special interests. How come we continue to elect people to send to Lansing from Detroit only to find out that we are being disappointed? I have never seen so many Detroit lawmakers against opening more charter schools when over 80% of parents want more educational choices?

Clark-Coleman is pissed off because part of the provision of this bill provides that no traditional school district can open a school or a program within the boundaries of a first class district without the permission of the first class district. However, that provision was EXCLUDED from the revised first class school district definition in SB 1107, which would mean that once Detroit Public Schools dips below 100,000 students, other traditional school districts would be able to establish schools or programs within the City of Detroit without the permission of Detroit Public Schools.

In other words, Southfield, Oak Park or even Harper Woods can set up shop in Detroit Public Schools WITHOUT PERMISSION. This would lead to more competition in our city (which would be great). The only thing is that charter schools are not eligible to provide these options or competition because the school district is defined as a traditional public school district, and not public school academy.

But remember, this revision of the first class district was for funding purposes. It is rewritten in the school aid budget NOT the Michigan School Code (which is different). Which means when DPS dips below 100,000 students (and this is GOING TO HAPPEN) Wayne County Community College and Bay Mills Community College will open the doors for charters.

We should not reward failure for our children. This is why I am urging people to speak with their lawmakers (especially those from Detroit) to stop rewarding failure to our children. This is bad public policy. Detroit Public Schools operate on a $1.4 billion annual budget. Money is not the problem here but mismanagement of money is the issue. We are tired of sending our policymakers to Lansing only to go along with DPS's failures. It is embarrassing to see the state's largest school district graduating 24% of its seniors on time. Many are walking around with a 6th grade reading level. Over 50% of residents in Detroit who graduated from the Detroit Public Schools are functionally illiterate.

This is a threat to our security here in our city. Education is the passport to the world and can help eradicate poverty. Instead, we are rewarding poverty and not pushing and rewarding educational quality.

The other thing about this bill is that by changing the language of a First Class District it will take away foundation grant money for schools for can perform and graduate educated children.

Keep in mind that Irma Clark-Coleman is supporting her Chief of Staff, Gary Pollard, for State Representative in District 11. A vote for Pollard is a vote to continue Clark-Coleman's inept school polices on education to keep educational choices away from the city. Therefore we cannot support Gary and I am urging people to support Jeanean Bryant for State Representative in District 11.

Then look at what they did to the Michigan Merit Examination.

The writing portion of the ACT would be the only writing portion of the Michigan Merit Exam. This provides a more reliable representation of a student's knowledge in English Language Arts. The social studies writing portion of the exam would be eliminated.

This is beyond ridiculous. I hope people can see what I see by eliminating social studies these children will not be able to articulate their positions on policy, government and other issues that the rest of the world has mastered. There are rumors already going around on how social studies should be eliminated all together from the Michigan Benchmarks.

Well that would be a HUGE mistake. We have children in Detroit and in the suburbs that cannot find Africa, Asia or Europe on a map. In fact, there are many people who are adults that CANNOT read a map because geography is being phased out of the curriculum in public schools. We do not have things like home economics in our classrooms anymore as well as stressing the importance of foreign language. Then we wonder why we are still behind the rest of the world.

I keep asking the question to our lawmakers where is your integrity when you vote on these type of bills. You are supposed to represent us not vote on special interests. You claim you are Christians but after reading this bill's passage it is clearly shown that you are not practicing the teachings of Christ.

The reality is Michigan is headed down a slippery slope when we give special treatment to a first class school district. There is nothing first class about Detroit Public Schools when they are jacking off $600 million, high dropout rate, low graduation rate, the children are acting like animals in the classrooms, rape, gay and lesbian gangs tormenting children, lack of core Christian and educational values, teachers who are collecting a check, principals who don't give a damn, an embarrassing school board that do not even understand educational policy to begin with, a CEO who makes more than the Mayor of Detroit, closing schools down to foster more crime in the community and zero parental involvement that concerns the academics of our children.

I mean how much more money do we need to funnel into a failing school district? When are we going to realize that we are being duped at every single angle on this entire educational issue in Detroit? We need leadership that will work for our people in our city. Under the Covenant for Detroit we can do this by electing an entire new school board who are (1) Practice Jesus Christ and not just put what church they attend on their kicker card to voters, (2) support competition in the school district and (3) support educational quality.

We do not need any rewards for failures. We should reward sound public policy. We should reward change in the City of Detroit and it's time we cleaned house from Lansing to the precinct delegate in our city. Let's embrace the Covenant for Detroit and continue to fight for sound public policy that helps families and schools.

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