School Choice

Detroit Schools Are Well-Funded, Terrible, and Parents Want Out


Detroit School Choice

One of the big arguments against school choice wielded by fans of the we'll-all-sink-or-swim-together vision of public education is that alternatives divert resources from public schools, dooming them to starve and fail in their mission. It doesn't take much effort, however, to demonstrate that public schools aren't starving. In fact, they've been feasting — consuming growing resources by the year, with little to show for their efforts. Detroit's public schools spend well above the national average per-pupil, but the results are nothing less than catastrophic. It's no wonder that Detroit parents overwhelmingly want out of the public schools.

The Census Bureau reports (PDF) that Detroit Public Schools spent $12,801 per-pupil in 2009-2010. That's pretty impressive, since the headcounters also say "[t]he nation's elementary-secondary public school systems spent an average of $10,615 per pupil in fiscal year 2010." (The Mackinac Center for Public Policy claims (PDF) that Detroit actually spent $15,570 per pupil in 2010.) But with that money, the city's well-funded educrats achieved … not so much. The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund found that 47 percent of the city's residents are "functionally illiterate." According to a local CBS affiliate:

WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with the Fund's Director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, who explained exactly what this means.

"Not able to fill out basic forms, for getting a job — those types of basic everyday (things). Reading a prescription; what's on the bottle, how many you should take… just your basic everyday tasks," she said.

"I don't really know how they get by, but they do. Are they getting by well? Well, that's another question," Tyler-Ruiz said.

That's lots of dollars spent to turn out a population that can barely navigate the daily bureaucracy of modern life, let alone enjoy the advantages of full literacy. It should come as no surprise, then, to find that four out of five parents want to send their kids anywhere but the Detroit public schools. From the Detroit News:

The poll was commissioned by The Detroit News and funded by the Thompson Foundation, which has provided funds to charter schools in Detroit but was not involved in collecting data or asking questions in the survey.

Eight hundred residents were surveyed by land line and cellphone Sept. 22-25 by the Chicago-based Glengariff Group Inc. The survey, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, asked residents' feelings about leadership, schools, transit, quality of life and overall optimism.

Of the residents polled, 79 percent said they would choose an option other than DPS for their child's education, such as a charter school, a private school or a school outside Detroit.

So … What to do? Let those parents seek an education for their kids elesewhere? Or fret that their departure will somehow lead the public schools to a worse fate than they've inflicted on themselves?

NEXT: Detroit Parents Embrace School Choice

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  1. Not strictly on-topic, but still interesting: Hong Kong has almost the same number of higher ed institutions in the Times Higher Education list as mainland China, and the average score for the institutions on the list is much higher than that of the PRC.


    Fascinating that in the dog-eat-dog capitalist hell-hole that is Hong Kong, higher education has done just fine.

    1. No surprise at all, when people realize that they need to be responsible and make their own decisions with their own consequences, many naturally do better.



      This leads to us all eventually sinking because a lot of people stop trying when they believe that someone else is responsible for keeping them afloat. A full century now of total failure of socialism and they can’t just admit it and give it up.

      1. It isn’t just socialism to blame, unfortunately. Society really just hasn’t existed without some sort of despot manning the throne, telling people what to do and how to live. If you’re already weak of mind it’s difficult to shake that kind of mentality.

  2. The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund found that 47 percent of the city’s residents are “functionally illiterate.”

    Sounds like Detroit needs a new Regional Workforce Fund, one that knows how to play ball. Maybe a nice government grant or two to the fund will get those residents’ reading scores up.

  3. Should I post the Seattle Times article again, or did everyone get it downblog?

    Meh, Times already took it down and the search won’t find it. Times’ Summary:

    Charter schools: Overrated? Unions say Yes.

  4. Behold!!!

    The Republicans Southern Strategy!!!…..84.svg.png…..80.svg.png

    Weep before the undeniable logic of it repression!!!

    1. Weird to think that Georgia and Hawaii ever agreed on anything, much less Carter as President.

      1. Pure Cane Sugar cartel.

        They broke ways after Coke started using high fructose corn syrup.

  5. I always thought that Detroit should just give students vouchers and let them be used anywhere, even in schools outside of Detroit.

    People would move back into the city just to get the vouchers.

    1. What’s interesting is people never stop to think– and realize that we have an NHS in this country, but for schools. They also never seem grok the implications of having a system whose own proponents admit will die if people are not forced into it. But I’m assured they’re pro-choice.

      1. Paul, you failed to use the best descriptive possible, socialist schools. They absolutely follow the Socialist ideal in public schools, why don’t we call them what they are?

  6. This is your inner city electorate, people. They can’t read a medicine bottle but they can decide who should run the country.

  7. Cue the standard-issue NYT piece about how all the problems with the public education system is solely and directly due to the fact that we suffer private education institutions to exist.

    1. Don’t forget the standard-issue Washington Post piece on how we don’t apply the Handicapper General model of education closely enough.

  8. “The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund found that 47 percent of the city’s residents are “functionally illiterate.”

    There is that number again!

  9. lol, American schools are so dumbed down its amazing!

    1. lol, the spambot is so much more insightful than are Tony and Irrational Stinker, it’s amazing!

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