One more post on the takeover of the Catherine Ferguson Academy

A few days ago, in a post about Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant and parenting teens, and how, at the order of Roy Roberts, the Emergency Financial Manager placed in charge of the Detroit Public Schools, it was being turned into a charter school, I posed a question about how much it presently cost to run the school. I asked because it was mentioned in a Detroit Free Press article, that making the CFA a charter school would save on the order of $2 million dollars. The article didn’t, however, say whether or not that was $2 million per year, or $2 million over the course of several years. Furthermore, it didn’t mention how much the annual budget of the internationally-aclaimed school was to begin with. Well, the following comment was just left by a reader calling herself FoodFighter:

I’ve been involved in this story for awhile, and here are two pieces that I wrote recently about it. The first was after the May 10 march through Detroit, published in the June edition of iSPY, and the second is simply a short update + photos after attending Thursday’s rally.

I would add that the whole EFM rationale about insufficient funds driving the closures & cut-backs is simply a rationalization they are using to promote Charter takeover. It is not reflective of the financial reality of the school. I have been to CFA twice in the last two weeks & both times that I was there (once as a guest on a class field trip for students from Roberto Clemente & once at the rally), I was reminded by faculty & staff that although the school costs $1.7 million a year to run, $1 million of that comes from federal grant money, as all their students are considered ‘high risk’. With that said, that boils down to about $300,000 more than other DPS schools (aka ~$2000 per student). So, in other words, for those of you who think this is all about financing –think again– it’s much more a political maneuver to remove the job security for DPS teachers while also silencing a marginalized yet empowered population that has been slowly gaining a voice.

I urge all of you to watch ‘Grown in Detroit’, the award-winning film about CFA, if you have not already.

And here’s another source for that $$ data that I mentioned.

That last link takes you to a piece by Free Press columnist Jeff Gerritt, who has the following to say:

…The argument that high costs drive the financially strapped district’s decision to close Ferguson appears bogus. The school offers free daycare for its 120 babies, on-site medical services and relatively low student-to-teacher ratio — a key ingredient to success. Those things cost and, on paper, Catherine Ferguson’s annual budget is high — $1.7 million. But more than $1 million of that comes from state and federal at-risk grants, including Title 1 funds. All in all, the school probably costs $300,000 more a year in general funds (mostly for early childhood education) than a similar-sized DPS school. That’s chump change for for an education that could break a cycle of poverty and failure for generations. Boys whose mothers haven’t finished high school, for example, are 10 times more likely to go to prison, where they each cost taxpayers $35,000 a year.

These young women carry a lot into the classroom. When I asked 10 of them last year how many had a parent who had been incarcerated, nine of 10 raised their hands. Six students had one parent at home; the other four had none. More than 90% of the students at Ferguson meet income guidelines for free or discounted lunches, as do 77% in the district. But the attention CFA staff members give their students tells them they will make it — and most do. Schools often produce pride, but I’ve never seen a school generate the loyalty and love from its students and staff that Catherine Ferguson does…

I personally can’t see how a for-profit, charter version of the Catherine Ferguson Academy could possibly deliver the same level of service, with considerably less money. (Not only will they be given significantly less funding to work with by DPS, but they’ll also be expected to turn a “profit” for the shareholders of Evans Solutions, the company behind the charter relaunch.) Whether or not you agree that the Catherine Ferguson Academy was singled out for closure because, as FoodFighter suggests, it was giving voice to a marginalized population, I think it’s clear that, at best, the move is shortsighted in the extreme. And, I think it demonstrates that the people at the top – the people making the decisions – don’t give a damn about the kids and the families that they’re elected to serve. They don’t care in the least that the Catherine Ferguson Academy was graduating kids at a much higher rate than other schools, and putting more kids in college. All they care about is keeping taxes low. Make no mistake about it – this is all about low taxes and cheap labor.

And here, in conclusion, is a little video of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that I think sums up the attitude of Republicans on the subject of public education pretty accurately.

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  1. Posted June 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s a war, if rightists can win this battle against pregnant black teenagers, then they can win against anyone.

    I went there. It’s an amazing place, far beyond any school I’ve been to.

    To me, it’s easy to see why rightists hate it so much.

    Even if the school costs ten times what a normal school costs, I’d say that it’s worth every penny.

  2. Maria
    Posted June 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Peter,please don’t generalize, saying things like “it’s easy to see why rightists hate it so much.” When people stay entrenched unilaterally is when things go to hell in handbasket.
    There are 4900 other pregnant teens in Detroit. Who knows how many in Ann Arbor. That’s life.
    The charter will not deliver as well, of course, but if there’s nothing else around, it doesn’t matter. I don’t like charters having had a very awful experience in my family with one.
    The problem isn’t the downsizing financially, it’s the complete lack of accountability in a charter. Those young ladies may very well be better off anywhere but at the charter. Personally, knowing what I know, I believe strongly that charters will be the coming scandal of the next decade.
    The unions did make things very difficult, you have to be honest about the situation, and having worked in Detroit myself many years, it’s completely believable there were years that no one graduated. The situation is dire in Detroit.

  3. Posted June 20, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    No Child Left behind addresses failing schools–see Ypsi High School which in the reincarnation will only be allowed to hire 50% of the teachers who had worked at Ypsi High. Obviously CFA was not failing–and those Federal Grants represent guarantied income–maximize your profits by paying the help (ie. teachers) less. Remember what Peter Yarberow (sp), a multi-billion dollar hedge fund operator said two weeks ago–Money managers are in a panic, we’re not investing in the U.S. until wage levels between China and the US are equalized.
    This is all part of bringing our wage levels into line with Globalized capital–our kids futures are totally screwed

  4. Edward
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Christ, what an asshole. I hate Chris Christie. And I think it’s very telling that he’s so popular with today’s Republicans, and so close with the big wigs at Fox News. This is the man they desperately want to join the race, and be the next President of the United States. That should tell you something. And to think Republicans went cray, calling Obama un-Presidential for wearing a short sleeve shirt in the Oval Office. If that’s un-Presidential, what’s this?

  5. Mr. X
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Christie might have a case, if not for the fact that he’s fighting to cut the budgets of public schools. It’s one thing to say, I pay my taxes, I support public schools, but I choose to send my kids elsewhere. It’s another thing altogether to say, I send my kids to private schools, and I’m actively working to defund and destroy public schools.

    The one good thing about this video is that it makes me feel better about my decision to leave New Jersey.

  6. Meta
    Posted June 20, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    From CNN:

    The Supreme Court put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., saying sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.

    That’s right, they’re too big to be sued for discrimination.

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