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Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2016/11/betsy-devos-and-the-segregation-of-school-choice/

Talent & education

Betsy DeVos and the segregation of school choice

school-choice1

Editor’s note: Donald Trump’s selection of school-choice advocate Betsy DeVos for U.S. education secretary has focused attention on Michigan’s generous school choice policy. Bridge Magazine recently revealed one troubling side-effect of this policy: segregation. This article was originally published Sept. 20, 2016.

HOLLAND – For more than a decade, Holland Public Schools has watched its enrollment fall, prompting the closure – and demolition – of multiple schools.

The decline is not the result of an aging community with fewer, school-age children. Rather, it’s largely a reflection of Michigan’s generous school choice policies. Choice has, consciously or not, left districts like Holland not only scrambling for students, but more racially segregated as its white students leave, often for districts that are less diverse.

“When school choice started, that decline started,” said Brian Davis, superintendent of the Holland district. In 2000, Holland had 15 school buildings; it now has eight. About one-in-three students living within the district are now being educated in another district or charter school. Because state education dollars follow students to their new district or charter, Davis said that Holland’s white flight has shaken the district’s finances.

In the two decades since Michigan adopted school choice, Holland’s white enrollment has plummeted 60 percent, with 2,100 fewer white students. Today, whites comprise 49 percent of school-age children living in the district, but only 38 percent the school population (Hispanics make up 47 percent of Holland schools).

From Holland to metro Detroit, Flint to Jackson, tens of thousands of parents across Michigan are using the state’s schools of choice program to move students out of their resident districts and into ones that are more segregated, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment data shows.

Earlier in September, Bridge showed how “choice” has made several metro Detroit districts less diverse, with white students moving to whiter districts and African-American students increasingly gravitating to almost-entirely-black charter schools.

Today, Bridge chronicles segregation patterns in districts across the state. You can use this Bridge database to see if choice has impacted student demography in your district.

SEARCH: How ‘school choice’ has changed Michigan school districts

Reasons differ, but results are similar

Holland High is performing well, when adjusted for poverty levels, but is losing many white students within the district to other districts or charter schools. (Photo from the Holland High website)

Holland High is performing well, when adjusted for poverty levels, but is losing many white students within the district to other districts or charter schools. (Photo from the Holland High website)

As white students left Holland’s schools, poor and Hispanic children increasingly became the face of the district. Today, 70 percent of Holland students are eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch, more than double the district’s poverty rate when choice began.

Many of those who left Holland’s schools didn’t go far. More than 400 students who live in the district now attend Black River Public School, a charter where 74 percent of students are white. Black River is just over a mile from Holland High School.

Another 255 Holland students drive east to the Zeeland Public Schools, which are 77 percent white.

Steve Grose, president of the Holland Public Schools board of education, has watched as thousands who live in his district take their kids elsewhere. One of his own has already graduated from Holland schools and two are currently in high school. Grose, who is white, said he is glad he stayed and embraced the diversity of the schools, which are also 7 percent African American.

“I’d say they’re getting a better education because of the rich diversity,” he said.

Yet across the state, thousands of parents are making a different decision, using choice to direct their children to less diverse traditional public or charter school districts.

The reasons given vary: Better resources, less racial friction, higher test scores, a safer environment. Advocates say parents are simply choosing schools that are better for the needs of their children, and deny that racial animus drives the majority of school choice decisions.

“Parents are making choice not on that issue (race),” said Dan Quisenberry, president of Michigan Association of Public School Academies, or MAPSA, the state’s largest charter school advocacy group. “They’re making choice based on, ‘How does this fit? Is it going to work’” for their child?

If all schools were equally successful, Quisenberry said, more families would likely choose a diverse school. But academic quality is the most important reason parents choose another school, he said.

Indeed, Black River test scores are among the highest in the state. It’s high school scored well even when those scores are adjusted for poverty levels, which are less than half those at Holland High School. But it’s also true that Holland High performed well, when adjusted for poverty, on Bridge Magazine’s 2015 Academic State Champs.

Meanwhile, Zeeland’s two high schools, West and East, had higher overall scores than Holland but, when adjusted for poverty levels, one of the best predictors of academic success, Zeeland schools were about average.

Digging deeper into the data, white students who remained in Holland schools performed higher in some grades than white students in Zeeland and Black River and at other times lower, but often comparable, according to the recent M-STEP scores released by the state.

Ben DeGrow, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank based in Midland, acknowledged that the state’s school choice laws can be problematic for districts that lose students. But he argued that the process can be made more equitable for lower-income, more vulnerable students by tweaking the choice laws. For example, providing free school transportation for choice students would allow more poor children to move to better schools, which can be a hurdle for families without cars. DeGraw also suggested eliminating the ability of individual districts to not participate in the choice program. Currently, some of the state’s best districts, such as Grosse Pointe and Dearborn, which border Detroit, do not accept outside students.

“Schools of choice can be messy for school districts,” DeGrow said. “But for parents it can be a lifeline.”

Segregation growing

Black River Public School is a charter school that is a popular choice among many Holland students. The charter, whose students are shown here on a project trip, is far less diverse than Holland Public Schools. (Photo from Black River website)

Black River Public School is a charter school that is a popular choice among many Holland students. The charter, whose students are shown here on a project trip, is far less diverse than Holland Public Schools. (Photo from Black River website)

Regardless of the reasons students leave their home districts, choice has resulted in more segregation in Michigan’s public schools.

“The outcomes we can measure show it’s leading to increased segregation and increased burdens for districts,” said Gary Miron, a researcher and education professor at Western Michigan University who studies school choice data. “If we are talking about choice as a market tool and we apply it as a market tool, there’s going to be winners and losers. Mostly kids are losing and your public schools are being damaged.”

Consider:

  • In the 2009-10 school year, roughly 64 percent of choice students across the state moved to a less diverse district. That rate is now approaching 70 percent, a Bridge review of student residency and demography data shows.
  • The number of school districts statewide where fewer than half the students are white rose from 38 a decade ago to 55 last year.
  • The number of charter schools where students of color are in the majority went from 119 in 2005 to 182 last year.
  • In Atherton schools just outside Flint, nearly 90 percent of school-age children living within the district are white, but just 60 percent of the district’s students are. The top destination of the students who are leaving: Grand Blanc schools (73 percent white enrollment) and Goodrich schools (93 percent white enrollment).
  • As white students use choice to transfer to districts or charters with even higher white enrollment numbers, African-American students are using the same law to attend predominantly black charter schools. Statewide, more than 93 percent of the 75,300 African-Americans students in Michigan attending a charter school last year were in a majority-minority charter school. That figure is 97 percent in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Education researchers say disadvantaged minority students benefit academically and socially from a more integrated education environment. They also note studies showing that integration can help all students.

“Integrating schools by race and income is one of the ways you can raise achievement,” said John Austin, president of the Michigan State Board of Education.

Austin, a Democrat who has been critical of the state’s aggressive approach to school choice and charter expansion laws, said the state’s current system has not produced better academic outcomes for students and needs to be reconsidered. Choice, he said, has to lead to classroom improvement, not just mobility. “It has to be part of a strategy to increase achievement levels,” he said.

Progressive critics have long railed against Michigan’s school choice and charter school policies, noting that they were sold as a way to bring innovation to a stagnant public school system. National testing shows that Michigan, which has had choice since 1996, has fallen markedly in national measures of classroom performance. As one example, the state is now ranked 41st in 4th grade reading scores, from 28th in 2003.

With some raising questions about charters and choice, state education officials have begun taking a data-driven look at how both programs work.

Venessa Keesler, a deputy superintendent for the Michigan Department of Education, noted that initial research indicates that students who used choice to change districts do not perform better, on average, academically and that many students who left for another district often return.

The next phase will focus on why parents choose to leave, Keesler said. It may include surveying parents. But she said it’s unlikely MDE will revamp the state’s popular school choice program, which more than 300,000 students now participate in, or 20 percent of the state’s public school population.

“Schools of choice is not high on the ‘change’ agenda right now,” Keesler said. “We support parent choice, for whatever reason they make it.”

One charter’s appeal

In Holland, the top “choice” destination is Black River Public School, a charter school founded over 20 years ago when charters were first allowed in Michigan. It gets more than 80 percent of its students from Holland and nearby West Ottawa Public Schools.

If Black River’s demography mirrored the makeup of the districts it draws from, just under half of its students would be white. Instead, it’s nearly three-quarters white.

Grose, the Holland board president, speculated that Black River may not attract as many poor or Hispanic students because of its unusual requirement that students can’t graduate unless they have been accepted to a four-year college or university.

That provision may scare off some poor or non-English-speaking families who may have financial or other concerns about college, Grose said. In Holland’s public schools, 70 percent of students are poor and 11 percent are English language learners. At Black River, only 20 percent of students are poor and 1.3 percent are English language learners.

Shannon Brunink, the head of Black River, said the school’s college acceptance requirement is intended to create a college-going culture, and “absolutely is not a self-selecting” policy to increase segregation. He noted that the lottery to get into Black River is open to anyone and that so many students want in that there’s a waiting list. (In May, MAPSA named Brunink the group’s Administrator of the Year).

Davis, the Holland superintendent, said he knows several current Holland students on the Black River waiting list, ready to leave should they get the chance. His more diverse district has little choice but to carry on, fighting a system he said is rooted in “economics and race,” as more students move elsewhere.

“We shouldn’t have to fight this hard to educate our kids,” he said. “We just shouldn’t.”


Districts hit hardest by choice

Top 10 districts losing students to other districts

These districts saw the highest percentage of students opt for another traditional district elsewhere, led by Ecorse which saw nearly half of it’s students leave. Click on a district to see where students went and differences in demography.

% White students
District Students in district Left for another
public school district
Percent leaving School-age
population
School enrollment Gap
Ecorse 1577 756 48% 24.7 14.5 -10.2
Mount Clemens 2996 1394 47% 51 21 -30
Madison 1844 853 46% 88.2 57.8 -30.4
Albion 1020 443 43% 53 29.1 -23.9
East Detroit 6985 2954 42% 37.2 18.6 -18.6
Iron Mountain 1148 460 40% 91.9 89.5 -2.4
South Lake 2091 831 40% 61.8 41.9 -19.9
New Haven 2423 930 38% 80.8 70.6 -10.2
Adrian 4146 1432 35% 71.5 56.6 -14.9
Bridgeport-Spaulding 1949 648 33% 37.4 21.7 -15.7

Top 10 districts losing students to charter schools

Nearly half of the students who live in the Detroit Public Schools attend a charter school. Many city school districts across Michigan have seen thousands of parents choose charters over the struggling traditional public schools. Click on a district to see where students went and differences in demography.

% White students
District Students in district Left for a charter school Percent leaving School-age District enrollment Gap
Detroit 104013 50994 49.0% 4.4 2.2 -2.2
Grand Rapids 27272 6788 24.9% 35 23.1 -11.9
Flint 14894 5657 38.0% 24.8 14.8 -10
Pontiac 10901 4292 39.4% 20.4 8.5 -11.9
Ypsilanti 7514 2569 34.2% 37.8 22.5 -15.3
Lansing 17023 2379 14.0% 35.4 26.3 -9.1
Hamtramck 5251 2369 45.1% 56.3 45 -11.3
Taylor 10419 2222 21.3% 63.3 55.6 -7.7
Plymouth-Canton 19574 2209 11.3% 71.7 70.9 -0.8
Wayne-Westland 14005 1871 13.4% 63.9 55.8 -8.1
Dearborn 21606 1592 7.4% 86.5 93.3 6.8

Note: Minimum of 1,000 students living in the district. Source: Michigan Department of Education, U.S.Census

Mike Wilkinson is Bridge’s computer-assisted reporting specialist. Mike held a similar role at The Detroit News. See more stories by him here.

39 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Carolyn

    Why can’t the districts losing large numbers of students do what Ann Arbor Schools do and get them replaced with foreign students? Since 11% of Holland’s students don’t know English, they must already have the foreign language instructors. They might not be able to go after the wealthy Chinese families right away, but there are wealthy Hispanic families in many countries and the option to send their child to a safer environment in the Holland area might appeal to some. Maybe some of the families in the district that are currently in the district would volunteer to be host families. Articles on the Ann Arbor district getting Chinese students to stay for multiple years include:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/03/chinese_students_will_come_to.html
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/02/new_program_proposed_to_aaps_w.html
    http://michiganradio.org/post/new-program-would-bring-international-students-ann-arbor-schools

    The Holland school’s should consider promoting their school to people outside the usual district area. Get enough students who are capable of academic rigor and even if they don’t know English as their primary language but do want to be very fluent they will have a positive effect on the other students. If a majority of students who don’t know English as their primary language don’t care about learning the language it can have a negative effect on others and drain a school’s resources from helping the other students who need more help (regardless of income, social, and physical barriers). Find a niche to shine in and recruit students to your district locally, from other states, other parts of the state, and other countries. If you could find a trusted partner for student room and board you could try a special needs niche and recruit students from families in Michigan where the students are on the bus for several hours to get to classes (I heard about this problem around the time school choice was new to the state, so it may have improved).

    1. Pamela

      Carolyn,

      I’ve housed 2 wealthy Chinese students (only for 2 weeks) in our school program. I decided to back out because I do not think bringing Chinese students here is a good idea. Almost all of them are only children in boarding school environments. They do not know how to be part of an american family. I believe most of them want to stay here for college and that is why their parents are sending them here for High School. The Chinese kids that come here have spent their life in school from 9am to 9pm. They don’t know how to play sports and anything outside of learning. So now we are making it ever harder for Michigan kids to get into Michigan Colleges. I do not think bringing more Chinese students here will help our kids or schools.

      1. duane

        Pamela,

        From what I heard until recently by law families in China were only allowed to have one child, that would seem to preclude their having siblings. If you asked their parents I wouldn’t be surprised if they would have wanted more children,

        My understanding has been that the reason for having exchange students from other lands and for our students going to other lands was so they could learn about the different cultures and hopefully respect those differences, and that the students in the lands they visited would both teach them about ours and would learn about their.

      2. Karen

        I live in Los Angeles County, in the San Gabriel Valley. Chinese students here are called “Parachute Kids”. Basically, wealthy Chinese families send their children here to attended private schools and to prepare them to attend American universities (California has many universities in Los Angeles and Orange County, several of them the higher level University of California schools and many expensive private universities). They do it because Chinese universities are far more stringent and harder to get into. These kids are sent to families to live that the parents pay. They have NO supervision and are really just on their own. The private schools they attend take NO responsibility for them outside of school and the host families don’t really take care of them. These kids hang out mostly in cities like Alhambra, Rosemead and Monterey Park, where there are large Chinese communities and they run in packs. We had a criminal case a couple of years ago where one Chinese girl was brutally attacked by her friends over a boy. She was beaten, stripped, had her hair chopped off and burned with cigarettes and left in a wilderness park in Hacienda Heights. Three Chinese students are now in prison and one of them was whisked back to China by his father. All were wealthy Chinese students who lacked supervision by their host families (who were paid by the parents) or by the schools they attended. Parachute kids is a horrible idea. It’s not like exchange students, where kids come for a year to experience a new culture. It’s where wealthy Chinese parents send their kids to another country, give them a ton of money (these kids lived very wealthy existences) but the kids had zero direction or supervision. These are still KIDS! They need family and love. Academics is not everything. Encouraging wealthy international parents to DUMP their offspring here to be educated is ridiculous. It’s not fair to the KIDS! Living with a host family is not like living with your own. It’s different with an actual boarding school. There are rules and supervision and accountability. But, trying to encourage wealthy international families to dump their kids here just to solve our public education problem is absurd and shockingly selfish. We need to fix our own problems.

    2. Anna

      Carolyn,

      Ann Arbor’s and other metro-Detroit school districts Chinese student recruitment programs depend on visa fraud. They claim that F-1 visa students in the US for their second year of high school are enrolled in a college or university, when what is really happening is that they take one or two classes in a dual-enrollment program managed by the school district. A local college or university is recruited to administer the F-1 visas and certify (generally non-transferrable) credits or certificates for the dual-enrollment students in exchange for a fee paid by the school districts. In many cases, the dual-enrollment classes are actually taught in high school buildings by high school teachers.

      The profitability of these programs also depends on the Michigan Department of Education continuing to allow school districts to claim the state per-pupil foundation allowance when local families sign up as legal guardians for F-1 visa students under 18. The legal precedent they are relying on to claim the state foundation allowance for these students requires that the guardianship must not be “primarily for purposes of accessing a public education”. However, students on F-1 visas are in the US specifically and exclusively for educational purposes. I doubt that Michigan Dept of Ed will continue to allow this practice since John Austin lost his seat as President of the state Board of Education.

      Public school students with F-1 visas are required by Federal law to pay tuition to the school district, but most states do not allow school districts to claim taxpayer per-pupil funding for tuition-paying students. Michigan law specifically allows school districts to claim the foundation allowance for a J-1 exchange student who is present on count day and specifically forbids charging these students tuition. The intent is very plainly to allow a school district to charge a student tuition or claim the per-pupil foundation allowance, but not both. I’m betting that the current loopholes will slam shut with a bang during the next legislative session.

  2. Eric

    Going back to Engler, MI will undermine a well-performing suburban neighborhood school if it means they can open even one charter $chool.

  3. John S Porter

    So if the Holland Superintendent did a better job . . . It is a convenient scapegoat to blame State Law for a local failure. If the purpose of public schools is to promote diversity, then perhaps there is a problem here. If charter schools discriminate against black enrollment, there is a problem, but that is not the problem referenced in the article. Race based education (in contrast to education) appears to be the focus of the article. So forcing parents to choose differently seems to be the goal. Am I wrong?

    1. Carol Waltman

      I came away with the same impression.

    2. Brian Davis

      John, I would be happy to discuss with you what is happening in Holland Public Schools and all of the great things that are happening in our district. I am not blaming any policy, I am simply stating the fact of what is. I am happy to share with you local, state, national and international research on school choice and the negative impact it is having on communities at large.

    3. Terry

      John,
      I have the same impression. Seems like a social experiment went awry with schools of choice. My experience with parents of Detroit Public School students is any place but DPS’s.

    4. Gretchen Starr

      Holland’s superintendent is a past recipient of Superintendent of the Year in Michigan. He got a $70 million bond issue passed during a recession that hit Holland’s automotive suppliers HARD. My child graduated from Holland, and her education was EXTRAORDINARY. We researched many public and private schools when making the choice for high school, and Holland came out on top in all of our evaluations. Teachers and administrators at HPS are extremely engaged with the diverse student population they have now, and very proactive in making sure they have right programs in place for a changing student population. This is conservative west Michigan, and “white flight” is a real thing. My family would be considered “white” if you were to label us.

    5. John Q. Public

      I, too, am curious about the characterizations. Consider Atherton: According to the story, nearly 90% of the school-aged students residing in the district are white, but only 60% of the student enrollment is white. So, if all the kids living in the district stayed in it, and the district did not accept students from outside the district (i.e., we did not have schools of choice), it would be nearly 90% white instead of 60%. Were that true, would it be cause for celebration or criticism?

    6. Jerilynn Tucker

      Brian Davis was Michigan Superindent of the Year not long ago and is an excellent advocate for all children. The problem is that charter schools are public schools only in respect to the money they receive from the public. Black River is allowed to say to student number 651, ” sorry, you can get on the waiting list, we only have space for 650 students”. That same student can go to Holland Public Schools and have a desk and a teacher the next day. Much effort is required to place every new student, effort that Black River can direct in other places than meeting the requirements of a genuinely public school that honors the charge to provide every child with an appropriate education. Dr. Davis’s remarks as quoted in the last paragraph of the article are misleading, he also knows of students who come back to Holland High to finish their education because they have plans for post high school life that don’t include college, for example military service or trade school.

  4. Anne Hamming

    In response to John S. Porter, I believe the goal is public policy that gets us to face our biases and prejudice rather than continue to flee from them. That is the path to a more perfect union.

  5. Lola Johnson

    Implicit in the article is the likelihood that many of those fleeing the diverse schools do so because they think their children will be better education in a better school. Also obvious is that large numbers of people who wish their school was better choose to run away from the problem rather than face it and work to resolve issues. I note that Iron Mountain has one of the highest rates of students who run to other schools. I graduated from IMHS, and I can tell you, there was and still is virtually NO diversity in that Yooper school system. NOR IN ANY OF THE SURROUNDING SCHOOLS that receive these “choice students. (All of our local schools score higher and have higher graduation rates than most of the state.)So whither the students?? Iron Mountain has a generous scholarship fund, and many time those who leave because they want another neighboring school’s gymnastics program or a certain language will come back as juniors or seniors just in time to get in on those scholarships. There are many reasons why families choose to leave a district. Sometimes it is nothing more than anger with a particular teacher or coach, and yet the money follows them wherever they go.

  6. Nancy Flanagan

    This is the best piece Bridge Magazine has ever printed on school choice and equity. Congratulations.

    You have provided clear, well-researched analysis on how charters and “choice” slowly destroy America’s best idea: a free, high-quality, full public education for each child, no matter what they bring to the table.

    1. Elena Herrada

      Excellent research!!! Too bad it’s not going to matter now.
      Snyder and Rhodes are closing more schools in Detroit and allowing charters to be the new crack economy here.
      Cronies get contracts no matter how poorly they do, and public schools are looted to pay for charters. It’s a great racket if you are not a student or a taxpayer.

  7. Lucy

    As someone who has experience working in Holland Public Schools and at a charter school in Holland, I can say that this article is on track with the challenges facing school districts in Holland and around the state. Families that can afford ‘choice’ are choosing to leave and those that typically can’t are staying. Is that truly choice? Does a student learn more when their beliefs and ‘what they are used to’ are challenged or by being around a group that is like-minded in most ways? As someone who has been in both settings, I will take Holland Public Schools anytime.

  8. TJ

    The current rules for school choice in Michigan will continue to decimate districts with diverse student populations and those with high numbers of families in poverty. To suggest that parents choose to move mainly to get their children in a school with better academic performance is not entirely true. Many move for athletics and costly extracurricular programs that the poorer districts can’t afford, and many move to insulate their children from students of poverty or color. It is not what we like to hear or admit, but it is the truth. The poor districts get poorer and make more program and staff cuts which just accelerates the decline. Sadly I think things are likely to get much worse with the appointment of DeVos as Secretary of Education. She and her husband have pushed for vouchers and been rebuffed by the voters of Michigan, but they have purchased enough seats in the House and Senate in Lansing to affect legislation that has undermined local public schools. It does not take a very deep dig to uncover the real dirt that lies beneath the surface of optimistic claims about the benefits of school choice. Detroit is just the most glaring example. Education opportunity is NOT available equally for all students in our state, and it is lnot likely to improve any time soon.

    1. duane

      TJ,

      Our daughters spent most of their K-12 years in schools where the expectation was graduating 8th grade not getting a high school diploma and the last 1 and 3 years respectively in a ‘wealthier’ school. What they found was there were good teachers in both, but the critical difference was the students’ expectation of themselves and the level of interest in learning.

      What seems to be missing in all of the conversations about school is the students and about why and how to get them interested in learning. The reality was that there were kids that achieved in the ‘poor’ schools and there were those who failed in the ‘rich’ schools and it was about the student and not about the nature of the education being provided.

      Until the focus is on the students the parents and students will move to where the schools are perceived to provide what the student wants.

      A test to apply, when you were in school did all the kids in your classroom succeed, did all the kids fail, or were the some that succeed, some that failed, and many in between? Do you recall who did what and why? Since the education in that classroom was the same for all then could it be that the difference was the individual student and what they were willing to do?

      1. Chris

        Could it also be the expectations and support of a student’s parents?

  9. John Q. Public

    Is there even a common understanding of what “diversity” means? I ask because the ways I see and hear the term used often border on the illogical. It appears that most people (see, e.g., this article and some of the accompanying comments) use it to mean the prescence more people of African or Hispanic descent. As in, a school that is 90% white is “segregated,” but one that is 90% black is “diverse.” A school that is 65% white and 35% Asian is not described as diverse, but one that is 65% Hispanic and 35% white is.

    If I make a choice between sending my kids to a school that is represented by two dominant cultures, one with a 90/10 split between the two and the other with 60/40, is the second really any more diverse than the first? The kids are exposed to the same two cultures regardless of which school I send them to. Is there any evidence as to the point of diminshing, or even negative, returns? Is a poor Hispanic kid any better (or worse) off going to school with 65% rich kids than he is with only 50% rich kids?

    A school culture that equally values accomplishment in academics, athletics, performing arts, visual arts, vocational education, and both competition and cooperation is far more diverse than one where it’s all sports,all the time, regardless of what color the students’ skin. Diversity is experienced in myriad ways far beyond skin color and family income.

    1. Ceidi A

      Thank heavens for a sane response!!! Exactly, what’s happened to really educating our children??? Kudos, Mr Public!

  10. David J

    If we continue to set up conditions that help destroy public schools in the United States, whatever the reason, we destroy the fabric that made the United States a land of opportunity. The net result will be the eventual failure of our country. Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos will only speed the process.

  11. Cecilia

    These parents are not leaving failing schools due to color. They are not putting their kids into schools due to race. It just so happens, as we all know, the best schools are in the whitest areas. When they start moving kids to lesser schools, that match their own race, then you can say it is race. Until then, it is all about where and how they can get the best education for their kids.
    Doesn’t Michigan have a dumb law saying that for profits can operate even if they stink? That needs to go.
    If schools want to keep kids they need to do what it takes to make education what it should be, safe and enjoyable.
    Lots won’t like this next fact. We spend more on education than any other country in the world with some of the worst out comes. Throwing more money in is not the cure. The system just doesn’t work. It never will. If it continues to stagnate parents will continue to leave. Why shouldn’t they?

    1. duane

      Cecila,

      I agree and I disagree.

      Students aren’t moving because of race, they are moving because of benefits for the student as perceived by their parents.

      The ‘best’ schools aren’t in the white neighborhoods because of race, they are their because of financial success due academic success. The difference is the culture of achievement in the ‘best’ schools. The best schools have a student culture of learning, of doing what it takes to learn, to achieve. The less than the ‘best’ schools have a student culture of doing other than learning, and it was about the individual student and not race. We saw it with our daughters and the schools they attended, the less than the ‘best’ and later at a ‘best’ and the student culture was the difference.

    2. Kathy Goeschel

      I completely disagree about the public school system not working. I have been noticing for the last 10 years or so what our local public school graduates have been doing post high school and many, many of these kids are finishing 4 year degrees or beyond, entering trade schools, going into the military…all becoming productive members of society without a doubt. The thing that all of these students have in common though are parents who supported them all the way up and made sure they did what they were suppose to do. That is the key, it’s not the public school system that isn’t working, it’s the lack of,good parenting for,so many of those students who don’t do well in school

  12. Keith Richardson

    The simple fact is that charter schools have proven to be no better and in most cases not as good as public schools…Parents are moving their children because the perception is that their child will perform better in a charter… They don’t…Betsy DeVos and her family have given large sums of money to buy State Legislators even to the point where they have worked to lower charter school oversight. This is a direct attack on public schools, public school students, and public school teachers…

    1. duane

      Keith,

      What metrics do you use when rating or comparing ‘charter’ schools’ to ‘public’ schools to ‘private’ [including parochial] schools?

      I ask this because I hear many that think like you about how poorly the ‘charter’ schools are doing in comparison to ‘public’ schools and I just don’t know how the comparison is made. I wonder if the ‘best’ schools are included in the comparison or whether it should only be the schools in the geographic area. In my county there about 13 public school district [one was/is run as a charter] there is one parochial school [K-12] and maybe another but significantly less visible.

      My my knowledge of charter schools was when two of our grand-kids attended a public school operated charter school 4 years ago.

      I wonder how I should they be comparing them.

    2. Bernadette

      Great post Keith, I could not agree more. Once a “system” is politicized it is at risk to the whims of politicians. Making those systems for profit opens them up to being run like a business where the bottom line rules, and corruption and profit go hand in hand. All you have to do is look at the steady decline in the national ranking of Michigan students.

      As you look back and see the introduction of school of choice and the resulting outcomes (decline in national standing, increased segregation, political control over these systems) Michigan has reaped what it has sown. I have never seen Michigan in worse shape regarding schools, environmental quality, race relations, or common sense. We have as a state lost a basic moral imperative of freedom and equality.

      1. Mark

        Thank you Bernadette, My school district is already budgeting go lose 200 kids per year for the next several years. School of choice; we lost 375 and gained 315, net 60. Just stealing from Peter to pay Paul. So where are the rest of these kids these kids going? Mostly charters (taking their state funding with them). Well. My gripe is that they then come back and want to use the school buses and the sports facilities and participate in the after school activities. Let them pay for their own buses, gyms, play fields. School is not just book learning and test scores. It’s supposed to “civilize and socialize” our kids into a functioning community. Tear down walls, not build them.

        1. John Q. Public

          “Let them pay for their own buses, gyms, play fields.”

          I heard that same argument in my ‘home’ district, Mark. Unfortunately for them, I brought my property tax bill with me–the one showing I pay thirteen mills in supplemental, sinking fund and debt millage. We pay for both operations and facilities, just like every other property owner in the district. The fact that some residents don’t choose to use the instructional services of a district should not preclude them from using the physical plant they help pay for.

  13. Elena Herrada

    Wonderful coverage!
    It will be interesting to see what impact Governor Snyder’s plan to close more Detroit schools will have on the charter situation here. It’s already taken over like a cancer.

  14. sue

    ok, i read this article , and my first thought is….so your losing students to “better” districts, so why don’t you do something to better your schools?…and what exactly is the majority of michiganders thought on Betsy DeVos, since she is from our home city/state?

  15. Tim Keller

    “National testing shows that Michigan, which has had choice since 1996, has fallen markedly in national measures of classroom performance. As one example, the state is now ranked 41st in 4th grade reading scores, from 28th in 2003.”

    REALLY? The author of the article takes these two separate facts and claims they are causally related? 1) Michigan test scores have dropped, and 2) Michigan has school choice???

    How many other factors has the author ignored in accounting for Michigan’s drop in test scores?

    During that same time period: how many times has the state changed the standards for school districts? How many changes have been made in standardized testing – even the tests that have been used as a measure of academic success? How many times have school districts been encouraged to revamp their curriculum to meet the latest fad on the educational reform bandwagon?

    Over the past few decades, Education Reformers have tried to reinvent the education wheel so many times that the education wheel has had four corners chiselled onto it.

    Do corporate charter school chains have some demonstrable problems? Sure. But to make such a logical leap as to claim that standardized test scores have dropped in Michigan because school choice exists … that’s not an honest discussion of the myriad problems plaguing Michigan’s schools.

    Why don’t we get back to what worked in the past. The recipe for educational success is still embedded in our own state constitution (the wording of which comes right out of a federal law that set aside land for public schools in Michigan in the first place). Article VIII, Section 1 of the state constitution … go read that. And when the wording rubs you the wrong way, ask yourself this: who taught us to think that that view of education is wrong? Maybe our generation is the one that gets it wrong. Maybe the men who wrote that law in the first place had the right idea.

  16. Alex

    Why isn’t anyone talking about the education these children are getting, or more realistically, NOT getting? All I hear is diversity this, diversity that? I was born in Tampa, FL, like my mother, so I we are American citizens, but the rest of my family on both sides here immigrated and became naturalized citizens. I attended both public and private schools, my three children were home schooled and have all earned college and university degrees. I have returned to university to complete my BA in Sociology, and hold a place in University of Florida’s Tau Sigma chapter of the National Honor Society. I have mentored two middle school girl and a high school freshman, students in my district’s “best” public middle school and 2nd “best” public high school – both far from having a highly diverse,very white, middle to upper class student population, that don’t get bussed miles to attended either school.

    Across Tampa Bay, my 11 year old granddaughter attends the premiere elementary magnet school in south Tampa, with an exceptionally high level of diversity, which has a lottery system so the families are picked out of a barrel; interestingly, most of these racially diverse children come from upper middle to high class families. The education they have clamor education to get at this school is supposedly the best the county has to offer. My granddaughter has been there since kindergarten and is now in 5th grade, her last year.

    Upon being accepted, her parents were told that her class would be fluent in their language of choice, fluidly playing their chosen instrument, have obtained one of the finest educations in the country, let alone the county or state! REALLY??? In whose Universe and what was this Principle smoking when she made those outlandish (in retrospect) statements???

    My granddaughter has been consistently at the “top” of her class for six years. Next school year she will be launched into a middle school that is presumably as educationally prestigious as this magnet school. She is NOT fluent in Spanish, but she can say about twenty words and know quite a bit about “Spanish” history (a miss mash of multiple Latin countries because the one good language teacher she had a couple of years ago quit bemoaning what a hoax was being perpetrated on these families!); she cannot produce a recognizable tune on her violin, but then again neither can any of her class mates either (if you just heard screeching cats in your head, that’s exactly what their “concerts” have sounded like to us); her spelling and grammar ATROCIOUS, handwriting is ineligible, these kids haven’t even been taught there is a spell check function on their tablets or laptops (which ALL of them own, thanks to mommy and daddy) and she’s not alone – I’m a classroom helper, I’ve seen their papers.

    There’s a lot of conversation of Harry Potter, very few field trips a we just went to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral FL, at $60 per person, and that was a JOKE! 85% of the trip was gift shop shopping and taking photos on or next to rockets of the past, it had been remodeled to parallel anything you’d find at an Orlando theme park! Educational??? There are a myriad of after school clubs she can belong to for an added price; she belongs to three of them – coding, photography, and the running club.

    Yes, given the opportunity, my Spanish family would choose another school where they actually keep their promises, be it privatized or not. As for the one commenter above me, don’t cite statistics until you check out EXACTLY how those studies were put together and how the numbers were run, because I know for a FACT, money can make anything look like it wants it to! If my granddaughter’s school is one day shut don and demolished, every teacher loosing their job, they deserve it! Look at the precious years my all their students have LOST, years that are supposed to be the death for absorbing information; they won’t ever get those years back; what an utter waste of life and all in the name of DIVERSITY???? Which by they way their “lottery” just happened to achieve – interesting how so many of those diverse families are so well off, isn’t it?

    We would far rather have a child that knows the difference between “to” “two” and “too,” who is fluent in a second language, who could stand toe to toe with a peer from the country with the best educational outcomes, not a child whose been praised for mediocrity! And you think I care about districts decrying the loss of their student leaving for a better education while they hold the their hypocritical banners of diversity for all to see, but only because behind those banners are a bunch of people who care far, far more about loosing their jobs and their BMWs or Mercedes to better qualified educators? I care not a wit of those imposters and their greedy district superiors!

    We are in dire need of maintaining a conversation about giving our children the best EDUCATION, not continue attempting to be the parent or care giver the majority of them already have! What good is it for the US to call themselves the best nation on the planet when their children – no matter what race, gender, or socio-economic class they come from) can’t spell, read, write, or compute worth a shit???

    Ceidi

  17. Carol

    I hope the reasons for increased segregation are not racial. But if they are, then all the years of enforced integration has failed and perhaps we had better find a more efficient way to rear our children to be free of racism.

  18. MPete

    According to the premise of the author, our kids attended a very disadvantaged elementary school…
    * Their school was NOT “white”… in fact they were by far in the minority. At the time, mostly Asian.
    * Our school district had the least funding per student of any public school system in the SF Bay Area.

    Given that… one might whine that we were stupid to leave them in the school system.

    Yet… our school district had the best educational outcomes by far.

    What made the difference? Many were convinced: parents who cared. Parental involvement at home (and at school). In many districts, parents rarely show up for Parent-Teacher nights, let alone anything else. In our district, literally 95% of parents were involved in some way in school activities!

    Oh by the way, our underfunded, mostly minority district? Cupertino, CA. Yes, home to Apple and HP. (Yet… in the 1980’s at least, that didn’t help our funding one bit.)

    I am convinced: people leave for another district or school NOT because of money or race… but because they care about their kids and believe the change will help.

    It’s that simple.

  19. RNR

    Those shrinking school districts — has the pay and benefits and employee/administrator headcount decreased?
    Has a superintendent who was in charge of 15 schools, who now has eight, and half the students … did his or her pay get cut?

    I’ll bet I know the answer …

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