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Nancy Flanagan, a veteran educator, now retired, writes about the contrast between the bankrupt Detroit public schools and a scandal-tainted charter school four hours north in Traverse City, called Grand Traverse Academy in Michigan.
We have read many stories about the desperate financial condition of Detroit, a condition made worse by inept state-appointed emergency managers.
“The Michigan legislature hasn’t decided yet whether to let Detroit Public Schools thrive. The House is currently tinkering with bills that cut back funding even further, allow uncertified teachers in DPS, remove DPS teachers’ collective bargaining rights, force teachers to re-apply for their jobs and eliminate an elected school board. In addition, DPS teachers got a tongue-lashing from several members of the legislature.
“Yes, this is the same DPS whose teachers had to shame their appointed leaders into doing something about the dead rodents, mold and wavy gym floors, earlier this year. It’s the same DPS that’s had four “emergency managers” in the past seven years. And it’s the same DPS system where 14 administrators appear to be headed for prison or plea bargains for taking kickbacks from a supply vendor.
“I don’t know a single DPS teacher who doesn’t provide essential supplies (including snowpants) for the children she teaches, out of her own funds. Imagine learning that principals in your district have been pocketing thousands of dollars out of the supply budget while you’re stopping at the dollar store on the way home, just to make it through the next day. They have taken to social media to plead their case, because nobody else seems to be listening…”
Drive four hours north to the Grand Traverse Academy, and you will find a beautiful charter school that collects $10 million in public funds.
GTA has a messy scandal on its hands. The charter operator borrowed $3.5 million from the school’s funds. Does anyone care? The media ignores the mess. The charter operates for profit, and these things just happen in business. The operator, an optometrist, said he had a pedagogical method based on “visual learning,” and his charter board had other optometrists who supported his ideas. The operator has since been convicted of fraud and tax evasion, but the board does not seem overly concerned.
“Detroit and Flint, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. were the first charter frontier. It was easy to persuade your average citizen to think: Well. You know, Detroit. They had to do something.
“Next step, however: Build gorgeous new buildings and use public money to fracture solid, well-run public educational systems. For private profit.
“Ask yourself: Why are the papers and the policy-makers all over those protesting teachers in Detroit–while the white-collar crime in charter world goes virtually unnoticed?”