“School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight”

Last week, as you may recall, I posted something here about how so-called “school choice” was adversely impacting our local school districts. Well, it just so happens that, in the most recent issue of The Center for Michigan’s magazine, The Bridge, they have a piece on that very subject, which goes into quite a bit more depth. Here, in hopes that it helps further our conversation, is a clip from the article, titled “School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight.”

…Consider: The East Detroit school district is only 19 percent white, even though 40 percent of school-age children living there are white. And the flood of East Detroit students to Lakeview, which is 80 percent white, has produced yet another shift: the loss of students prompted East Detroit to solicit students from other cities, mostly Detroit.

“School choice has accelerated segregation by race, by class, by ability, by special education status and by language,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who has reported widely (and often critically) on Michigan’s school choice policies.

But defenders of school choice say the policies produce more good than harm by empowering parents – black and white – whose local schools are failing their children.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, is one of the staunchest defenders of school choice in Michigan. He acknowledges that choice can financially harm the districts that are losing students.

But he and others contend that education policy should err on the side of supporting parents who want to move their children to schools that are better performing or safer.

eastpointe2Naeyaert said many more families would be hurt if the program was curtailed in an effort to reduce segregation that can accompany generous choice policies. He argues that, if anything, the state should make school choice less restrictive so poor families have more flexibility to take advantage of school options.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to rewrite the rules to (change) social behavior without eliminating options for people,” he said of segregation trends. “We can’t legislate morality and good intentions.”

Almost 50 years ago, the Kerner Commission, formed to study the causes of urban unrest in Detroit and other cities, concluded that African-Americans and whites in the United States were moving toward “separate and unequal” societies, including in the classroom.

Today, Michigan’s school choice law has led to several districts that are far more majority white, while creating additional districts in which minority students are in the majority, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment records shows.

The number of so-called majority-minority school districts statewide — where white students are in the minority — rose from 38 a decade ago to 55 last year. Meanwhile, the number of majority-minority charter schools went from 119 to 182…

School choice has been a popular option in Michigan for more than two decades. A byproduct of the 1994 adoption of Proposal A, which radically altered school finance in the state, students were able to switch to any district that opted to open their doors.

Today, over 300,000 students – more than 20 percent of all taxpayer-supported K-12 students in the state – are educated in either charter school or a traditional public school district other than the one in which they live. Whether choice benefits students academically is subject to debate…

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  1. John Galt
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    My kids all attend the John Engler White Flight Academy. The whole school is on a train. When the families of undesirable kids find it, we just move to a new location.

  2. Mr. X
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    It can not be said enough that this isn’t just about giving families with resources greater options. This is about pulling kids with resources out of schools in poorer neighborhoods, hastening the collapse of those schools. This is about taking out public schools one by one, starting with the weakest ones. This is about eliminating public education in America. We cannot lose sight of that.

  3. Dan
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    How is this eliminating public education? The kids are not transferring to private schools.

    Why should a student be forced to attend a terrible school?

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks Dan.

    Another way to spin it is that eliminating school of choice provides stability to underperforming teachers and administrators at the expense of trapped children.

  5. Lynne
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    We could fix this with two changes

    1. Require schools to accept all comers. In other words, open it up completely
    2. Require schools to provide transportation to any who want to come.

    The busing provision would be there to solve two problems. 1. A system where families must provide transportation and where the good schools are miles away from their neighborhoods is not fair. 2. The expense of busing will provide people in richer districts an incentive to vote for those who might make the schools in poorer neighborhoods better.

  6. kjc
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    “Another way to spin it is that eliminating school of choice provides stability to underperforming teachers and administrators at the expense of trapped children.”

    what color is the sky in your world FF?

  7. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink


    Please voice your objections because they might help everyone’s understanding…Can you be more clear? I don’t know what you are trying to say.

  8. K2
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Everything we do in Lansing is calculated to weaken public education and the teachers unions. Every action they take makes sense when you look at it through that lens.

  9. Lynne
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    One thing that seldom gets addressed in terms if teacher quality is something called an non compensatory wage differential. That would be anything about a job outside of the pay and benefits that makes a job more or less attractive to someone. In a world where teachers often are judged based on the outcomes of their students, teaching poorer students who have more struggles and who are more likely to score badly on tests or whatever other metric you would use to measure student performance makes the job less attractive to many teachers. Racism among teachers may make white teachers less willing to teach black students. Safety is an issue too although probably a lot of the concerns are at least part due to racial prejudices. The long and short of it though is that failing school districts are very unattractive places to work to a lot of teachers. That means, that in order to attract the same talent as one might find in a public school in a richer district, one must pay the teachers in poor districts MORE to compensate for all the non wage reasons why the job is less attractive.

    We dont though. Instead we make snide comments about how a system where students cannot choose their district is somehow protecting the jobs of bad teachers. The thing is though that even considering this, there are plenty of really good teachers in those failing districts. Blaming them or suggesting that they are bad teachers because their students face challenges outside of their control does not help. It just makes the job even less attractive.

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I can’t argue against those points, Lynne. I used the term “spin” before my thought for a reason. However, disallowing school of choice, in schools in which students a large number of students wish to vacate for better educational opportunities, would actually have a positive effect on teacher security in the less attractive school regardless of the teachers actual effectiveness/ value as educators. In other words, teachers do not always have the child’s best interests at heart….On the other hand , those who are advocates of charter schools are not always thinking of the money to made off the kiddos , as one might be led to believe based upon the comments coming from this blog.

    The worst thing about school of choice, in my opinion is not that it is aimed at dismantling public schools, as suggested above, but that it creates a situation where a more attractive school is given control over its stability for its teachers and administrators, while it takes away control of stability for the teachers and administrators of the less attractive schools. The instability creates a lot of obstacles….

  11. wobblie
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    one of the most unrecognized collateral effects of schools of choice is the destruction of geographic communities. As parents send there children to schools all over the place, they no longer share a common experience with their neighbors.

    As a “school of choice” parent you are no longer a citizen supporting the development of our future community. Instead you are reduced to simply being a consumer. You can continue to vote for school board members, but it has zero effect on your children. After all your child maybe attending school in a different district, or the charter school is charted by an entity hundreds of miles away, managed by a for profit company. Decision makers are no longer accountable to local communities.

    Atomized individuals are easy prey to demagogues, having no community to participate in and engage in “reality checks” means you are reduced to believing what you read on the internet, or doing as your told by authority figures.

  12. Maria Huffman
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    School of Choice is not much of a solution but there it is. AAPS took 671 students that made the school solvent and probably will lose that solvency with the Allen debacle, and so the only real solution will be to try and get more school of choice students into the district.
    As a long term solution, this is not a good idea. And in short term it is not that good an idea either, just possibly better than leaving a child in their home school, but not always, and the parents lose their vote for or against school board members, which even today, matters. A sad state of affairs.

  13. Maria Huffman
    Posted September 15, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Title 1 funding promotes segregation as well, Mr. Maynard, even as I truly believe people are less racist than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Strange paradox.

  14. Posted September 15, 2016 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t the problem not school of choice, but our bizarre structures of local funding for schools? It would seem that local control in the end does more harm to schools than anything else, given that some “communities” will be more interested in having good schools than others.

    Perhaps we might move to a different way of funding schools rather than preventing people from going to better schools next door.

    Some of the opponents of school of choice sound a lot like people who advocate for keeping people in poor countries even when there are better opportunities elsewhere. It would seem that there are people are more concerned about “communities” than the people who actually live in them.

    And n0, Jesus is not the answer.

  15. wobblie
    Posted September 17, 2016 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    SBL spoken like a true liberal,

  16. Lynne
    Posted September 19, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    We probably should eliminate school districts and have one big state wide district funded by income taxes instead of property taxes. Property taxes should probably be eliminated entirely for school funding. My only worry there is that the bigger the district, the more potential for abuse in the form of corruption.

  17. iRobert
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    The culture we’ve created makes any school system we come up with look like something of a failure. But I don’t want to have to think about how I am contributing to the problems in culture, so I’ll stick with just opposing whatever viewpoint Mark espouses.

5 Trackbacks

  1. […] neighborhood schools right and left due to unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those […]

  2. […] schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those […]

  3. […] schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those […]

  4. […] schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those […]

  5. […] schools right and left due to the unchecked proliferation of charter schools and a “schools of choice” system that pits neighboring districts against one another, fighting over those […]

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