Privatizing Education

The narrow midtown and downtown boom also raises the question of how long young urban pioneers will stay once they start having children. In a further drive toward privatization, low-performing city public schools have been privatized, with some run by the state-created Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) and others by charter school operators or contracted private entities who manage school education at their own discretion. As a result, schools are showing an increased number of disciplinary incidents, including truancy and drug and firearm possessions, among other problems. According to a Detroit News report, the second quarter of the 2012-2013 school year showed 5,200 reported incidents in the 8,000-student district. The chancellor for the EAA,

John Covington, who received a four-year, $1.5-million contract, previously worked as the turnaround expert for failing schools in the Kansas City school system, which, under his watch, made no progress and lost its accreditation.36

Diane Ravitch, a former Bush administration official who is now the leading voice against school privatization, argues that public schools are in fact working very well for most students. She asserts that the leading factors in poor school performance are poverty and segregation, and she writes of corporate reformers:

Though they speak of “reform,” what they really mean is deregulation and privatization. When they speak of “accountability,” what they really mean is a rigid reliance on standardized testing as both the means and the end of education. When they speak of “effective teachers,” what they mean is teachers whose students produce higher scores on standardized tests every year, not teachers who inspire their students to love learning. When they speak of “innovation,” they mean replacing teachers with technology to cut staffing costs. When they speak of “no excuses,” they mean a boot-camp culture where students must obey orders

and rules without question____When they speak of “a successful school,” they

refer only to its test scores, not to a school that is the center of its community, with a great orchestra, an enthusiastic chorus, a hardworking chess team, a thriving robotics program, or teachers who have dedicated their lives to helping the students with the highest needs (and often the lowest scores)^7

Governor Snyder, himself a multimillionaire former venture capitalist, has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from public education to finance corporate tax cuts. In April 2013 secret meetings were revealed between Snyder administration officials, business leaders, and corporate public school “reformers” to circumvent the state’s constitutional ban on subsidizing private schools in order to open the way for a vast expansion of corporate-run schools in Michigan using a voucher-like program^8 The already dismal school system in Detroit is thus likely to get worse and will demotivate middle-class young couples with children who may be drawn to a gentrified midtown-downtown from staying in the city.

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