The Poor Pay the Highest Price for Charter School Experiments — Part 2 — Detroit

Part 1 of this series focused on New Orleans and the radical experiment there with ALL charter schools serving the city this year. I showed that New Orleans is an example of how investors and hedge fund managers see “reform” experiments as an option only for the poor. We really don’t see much, if any experimentation being proposed in the upper economic sectors of this country right now.

Next, let’s look at another example of the callous disregard for the future of poor children to serve the business desires of investors and edu-corporations.

Detroit: Basket Case Then — Basket Case Now

By 2009 Detroit Public Schools was a basket case district that needed reform. But instead of actual reform of their school system, the state of Michigan passed model legislation provided by ALEC that replaced most of the Detroit public schools with unaccountable corporate charters.

Just this year, The Detroit Free Press ran the results of a year-long investigation: Michigan Spends 1 Billion on Charter Schools, but Fails to Hold Them Accountable. 

What they revealed is that taxpayer dollars have been spent on the charters that replaced the public schools in Detroit for minimal if even significant change in the quality of education for the children there. The report also reveals that once public money enters the realm of the private companies receiving it, there is no longer transparency about that money. Those organizations can do anything that they want with it by Michigan law.

The very thorough report by the Detroit Free Press is well-researched and damning. It reveals for-profit education leadership that dismisses any concerns about the future of the poor and mostly black children of Detroit.

The real agenda is corporate profits.

TFA Teacher Exposes Inside of Corporate Charters

One revealing piece is by Allie Gross, former Teach for America teacher, who taught in those Detroit charters from 2010 to 2013. The Charter School Profiteers shows in detail what she saw of the smoke and mirrors of her administrators who were working schemes to receive double salaries all at taxpayer expense while cutting every corner that they could to take care of their teachers and students.

Corporations and foundations created a huge amount of public relations smoke to hide their schemes of relieving the taxpayers of Michigan and the federal government of money that they did not have to account for once it went into corporate coffers.

She tells of one whole faculty being fired in September 2009 after the start of school. They saw massive mismanagement of their charter. When they were told that one paycheck would be two weeks late, they tried to form a union. When the administration caught wind that all the teachers were given 60-days notice. Forget the students and launching the school year. They just couldn’t have that union talk in their school.

Did that happen in the 21st century or the 19th? It’s hard to tell without a date reference.

Can we believe that there was any other concern but the biases of charter managers against teachers and unions. We can’t. Those poor students, mostly black, were of no real concern as long as the corporation could continue to collect taxpayers’ money for them by the head.

Michigan Teachers and Parents are Waking Up

First, the exposure that the Detroit Free Press has created about the huge problems of corporate charters is starting to cause parents and teachers to wake up and resist.

Michigan is now reconsidering its wide-open laws and rules that have allowed corporate mismanagement of charters in Detroit.

After a strong public reaction to a plan by Detroit PS’s state-appointed manager to increase class size, cut teacher pay across the district, and close over twenty schools, the plan was changed. Change will be much more deliberate, include far more leaders in the decision-making, and consider the impact of school closures on children and neighborhoods.

After much unnecessary hardship for the poorest of Michigan children at the hands of investors, the public is demanding change that has the welfare of the children, and not corporate profits, at the heart of education efforts.

Detroit Parent Teacher Protest
Parents and teachers rally against harsh Detroit Schools measures proposed. Credit:


Next, in the last of this three-part series, we will look at what happens to the poor children and parents of Newark, New Jersey when investors are given free rein in the “education business”. Watch this space.