Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Failure of Pontiac Comes From Education by Akindele Akinyemi
The Detroit News is reporting this morning how the Pontiac School District in Pontiac, Michigan will close eight school at the end of the school year. Those schools are Crofoot, Emerson, Franklin, LeBaron Longfellow elementary schools, the Dana P. Whitmer Human Resources Center, Lincoln Middle School, Bethune Alternative High School and Pontiac Central High School.
The district originally was set up to accommodate 20,000 students but enrollment has dwindled to about 7,000.
Pontiac is one of my target cities for revitalization. As a former resident of the city I know first hand what needs to be done there.
Silver rights through urban conservatism can flourish in a city like Pontiac. The most critical element of silver rights is family. The second element is education. The third element is wealth building.
The most thing that concerns me the most is the merging of Pontiac Central with Pontiac Northern High School. This is not good at all. Pontiac Northern High School is one of the most violent schools in Michigan. Combining both student populations is not a great idea.
Remember when Redford High School closed here in Detroit and the students ended up at nearby Henry Ford High School? A student was shot to death. Not to mention the number of fights, truancy and other issues at the failing high school.
The City of Pontiac is 48% Black, 35% White and 13% Hispanic. Only 68.9% in the city possess a high school diploma while 10% have obtained a bachelors degree. 3.1% have a graduate degree (even though Oakland University is down the street) and over 14% of the city's population is unemployed.
The Pontiac School District has had it issues also. This is the same school district that has sued the Federal Government over NCLB over funding. This is also the same school district that had the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) showed up at Pontiac Northern High School for a weapons sweep. The same school district that asked for a state loan or an advance on special education funding to maintain cash flow. The same school district whose teachers are scared to show up for work on any given day because the violence is part of the culture.
When these schools close and the high schools combine there is going to be a spike in child poverty in the city of Pontiac.
The city will never come to light in the 21st century unless there are some drastic changes.
The first thing is to realize that you have a problem in the community and the leadership of the city. Political diversity is necessary to bring ideas to the table that will work. Pontiac's leadership is controlled by the Democratic Party. Maybe it's time to mix it with some Republicans or Libertarians.
In terms of the education Pontiac is a hot bed for charter schools. Charter schools can be a solution to the horrific dropout crisis afflicting both Pontiac and Michigan. A student drops out of an American high school every 26 seconds, according to America’s Promise Alliance. In Texas, researchers at the Intercultural Development Research Association find that one out of every three school students fails to graduate.
While our state lawmakers pondering over at the staggering number of dropouts they should consider charter schools as a proven way to address the dropout crisis.
Charter schools serve a large percentage of poor and minority students, many of whom are behind their peers academically. Last year, 80 percent of Michigan students in charter schools were minorities, compared to 60 percent in traditional public schools.
To best meet the individual needs of their students, there are a range of charter school models. Some charter schools, to help their students catch up, offer a longer school day, Saturday classes, and mandatory summer school.
Another charter school model that could be implemented in places such as Pontiac is a math and science preparation emphasis, with multiple math and science Advanced Placement and dual credit offerings and involvement with math and science competitions. Expanding charter school models that offer a second chance to former dropouts, teenage parents, homeless youth, and juvenile offenders, providing these students with tremendous flexibility, one-on-one academic tutoring, and job skills training. One such school in Pontiac is the Lifeskills Center.
Demand for charter schools is growing. Yet, we have leadership here in Michigan refusing to lift the cap off charter schools. Lifting the cap off charter schools will help empower and encourage teachers to go into educational entrepreneurship by having the ability to run their own institution.
This is the time right now to open another (if not two) quality charter high schools in Pontiac. Parents are demanding safety and academics first and we have an obligation to deliver the goods and services.
Silver Rights through urban conservatism is necessary because it is our community duty to eradicate poverty with education. Thanks to the years of bad public policy here in Michigan we now have a child poverty crisis.
We are not helping our poor when we restrict our traditional public school establishment from the incentives to improve quality that would be generated by increased parental choice. We must think about what we are doing to our children.
Education is a SILVER RIGHT issue in 2010. It's not just a political issue but a HUMAN issue that must be address, solved and executed. Pontiac will not come back to life until the educational system is addressed properly and expansion of choice is accepted.