Over the past two summers, as the 482Forward Policy interns, we were tasked with creating a visual tool that shows the lines of authority from the State of Michigan all the way down to individual charter and traditional schools. When we started, we assumed that this type of information would be readily available to Detroit parents, but that was simply not the case. Information from the state level down to the charter management organizations (CMO) was relatively easy to find. But when we began to search for the names of school board members and how to contact them, we encountered many barriers.
There are hundreds of charter and traditional schools in Detroit. Because charter schools are decentralized into 59 districts, there is no centralized, easily accessible source to find their board members. Instead, you have to search the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), since each charter school is legally incorporated as a non-profit corporation. This is an arduous task that requires navigating a complicated website and uncovering annual reports. (As an aside, the information about which management company charter schools have hired - that’s the organization that often runs the day-to-day operations of the school - is in an entirely different, but equally non-user-friendly online database maintained by the Department of Education.)
Since the fall of 2015, the University of Michigan’s Community-Based Research on Equity, Activism, and Transformative Education (CREATE) team has partnered with 482Forward to research their dynamic education organizing work. We have been studying the ways that 482Forward and its members and partners strive to influence educational reform and school improvement in Detroit. Additionally, the UM CREATE team has worked with 482Forward’s research committee, Finding Answers and Creating Truth (FACT). The UM CREATE Team and 482’s FACT Committee continue to collaborate in designing research projects that help 482Forward gather education data to inform the group’s campaigns and organizing efforts. We have also engaged with the 482Forward community at meetings, trainings, rallies, and conferences. As we look back on what we have witnessed, our team is impressed and moved by 482’s strategies, persistence, and courage.
Our members come to us because they care about education, and that’s primarily what we talk to you about. And although we focus on education, we understand that to include anything that could affect student achievement. Transit, housing, trauma – it’s fair game for 482Forward if we can establish a direct link to children succeeding. But that’s still a pretty strict reading of our mission.
Molly and I have often said over the past two years that we need to get strong internally first so that we can become a good ally to other pieces of a broad movement for justice. But the moment has come to us, ready or not.
My mother’s family is Jewish, from Eastern Europe.
Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States of America. Ah’m jus’ sayin’.
As we seek to adapt to this unexpected fact, questions and blame and credit taking abound. Pollsters are pouring over exit polls and post-election polls and pre-election polls to see what went wrong or right depending on how or where you stand on the candidates.
I want to take a different tact.
I am sure the elections of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most historic elections in our history. This election cycle was about more than just popular names on the ballot, but some might argue, that it was about freedom, ideology, opportunity, natural life. Not only were there historic decisions being made on a national level, but Detroiters were casting their votes for the long-awaited Detroit Public School Board (Community District).
I have been attending meetings of the Hope Village Action Team of 482Forward for several months but attending the “new member” orientation I was unsure of what to expect. While I did have images of what this meeting would be I was ready and hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I was.
For starters, I like that the orientation started near the time indicated on the flyer because it showed me that they valued my time and appreciated me being there.
I thought it would be a group of young people mostly from the suburbs of Detroit...
2016 has been an interesting year for students in Detroit. Youth had to deal with everything from teacher sick-outs to the Detroit Public School reset. The news that Detroit leads the nation in chronic absenteeism with 58% of DPS students missing at least 18 days of school shone the light on the larger issue of education and Detroit’s school children: It is hard to learn when you’re not in school.
House Speaker Cotter just described schools as fast food restaurants and referred to our children as products:
“If Burger King is struggling to sell hamburgers, the answer is not to close down McDonald’s and Wendy’s,” Cotter said. “But rather, Burger King needs to raise their game. They need to improve the quality of the product they’re putting out there. ... We need to improve (education) quality — and then the rest takes care of itself.”
The truth is everybody's "struggling to sell hamburgers" and quality has become a relative term that centers around systematically destroying Burger King so McDonald's and Wendy's become "the choice" by default.
Children are people, not product. His analogy says it all...schools have become businesses that put profit over people. Since when does anyone think that letting McDonald's and Burger King compete has increased the quality of the food they sell? If we're going to have our schools in an all-out, unregulated competition, we should expect the same quality of education that we get from fast food - cheap and greasy.
Schools are not fast food restaurants and the children they are educating are not hamburgers. We can't compete and cost cut our way to success on this one. Education is a public good and a public necessity. We should have a say in what happens in our schools because they belong to all of us, and our communities will rise and fall on the quality of our education system. That's what school accountability means - a voice for all of us, not just the wealthy few. It's time for Michigan to stand up for school accountability.