Snyder and education
Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press was correct in his editorial about education when he said Snyder should not be taking on more direct responsibility for the schools. He has not earned that privilege. He is also correct more money will be needed to fix the problem not only in Detroit but other districts. This will be the only time in this post I'll mention that Detroit was unique by actually having the funds to fix DPS but billions were given away for pennies on the dollar within the Grand Bargain of the city's bankruptcy. This was approved by the Governor which was a mistake, unless of course the objective was to save the DIA.
Further, Henderson is correct a portion of the problem is many districts are losing population and funds provided by the state for schools is calculated on enrollment count. The smaller the enrollment the less money is provided by the state. In Detroit this is exasperated by the opening of so many charter schools in the city. Unfortunately, as revenues drop because of declining enrollment the expenses are not decreased dollar for dollar. Much of the cost of operating a school does not disappear because students leave. The District must still maintain empty buildings. Some of the buildings should be closed and sold.
There is a flaw in the thinking of many advocates of Charter schools. The Free Press did an good job earlier in the year evaluating how well Charters were doing regarding performance. In Detroit It found on a whole charters were doing no better than DPS in providing a good quality education. At the same time the cost of educating students overall in the city has increased because of the above mentioned overhead problem. In most cases I am a free market advocate but I am not convinced that educating the nation's future leaders should be left to the free market.
A key principle in a free market is the capitalists investing in the industry have their own skin in the game. If they fail to deliver a good product they lose their investment. The required investment in a charter school is relatively small and therefore they have little risk. Secondly a charter school requires a "sponsor " which often is a college. The college earns a fee based on the enrollment at the school and has nothing to do with results. Charters are more likely to sacrifice quality for income. In the case of "for profit charters" their primary objective is to optimize the net worth of their shareholders and there is only two ways of doing this; increase revenues or decrease expenses. This puts pressure on them to hire inexperienced teachers.
Teachers are professionals and as such teacher unions need to take on the role of a professional organization. It should not only be looking out for the teachers financial interests, which includes salary and benefits, it also needs to police the performance of its members. Like all professions not everyone can be a good teacher and the union should accept the fact that it is in the best interest of the profession if the under performers are weeded out. The teaching profession should consider a residency requirement like doctors.
The state role needs to be rethought. One idea would be for the state to do away with Emergency Managers and instead use the funds to improve the quality of management of each troubled district The Governor would appoint one individual to interact with local management at each troubled school and report back to the Governor and State School Superintendent on a quarterly basis. This would be more cost efficient and provide the means of better collaboration between districts.