Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Detroit Schools Push Away $200 Million

Via a discussion about school vouchers on Brad DeLong's blog, I discovered yet another development on the American educational front that illustrates the way in which teachers' unions go about sabotaging the opportunities of their supposed wards:

Thanks to the poisonous atmosphere created by a hostile Detroit public school establishment, philanthropist Robert Thompson has decided, with deep regret, that it is impossible for him to donate a $200 million gift to the city's schoolchildren.

The gift would have come in the form of 15 new charter high schools that would have guaranteed a graduation rate of 90 percent. The city's current graduation rate is 67.2 percent, according to the School Evaluation Services Web site created by the financial ratings firm Standard & Poor's.

After seeking legislative authorization for his schools for almost a year, Thompson threw in the towel after the Detroit teachers union threw what can only be described as a tantrum at the prospect of having to compete with charter schools.

On hearing that Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm had made a deal with the Republican Legislature on a comprehensive charter school expansion package that would have included the Thompson academies, Detroit teachers shut down the schools with a one-day walkout Sept. 25. Instead of teaching on that school day, 3,000 of these primary beneficiaries of the government school status quo held a mass demonstration at the state Capitol.

In response to this pressure from the public school establishment, both the governor and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walked away from the Thompson gift and from the broader charter deal, which also withdrew governance of the city's school district from the state-imposed reform board and returned it to a locally elected school board with strong mayoral input.

If this doesn't convince doubters that the real issue is the teachers' unions' interest in self-preservation, I don't know that anything will.