Week 5: New House Bill – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5: New House Bill

A few weeks ago, my supervisor thoughtfully offered me some articles that would help me get familiar with the field of Detroit education policy. This article strongly critiques the negative effects of the recent house bill, saying that it caters only to the small rich population that favors the privatization of Detroit education with charter schools. Some of the features in the new house bill are:

…a newly elected school board (the current school board is barred from running), an appointed financial oversight committee reviewing all spending of the school board (EM 2.0?), penalties for striking teachers, the allowance of non-certified individuals to teach in Detroit (and only Detroit), and merit-based pay for new teachers.

Even with my limited knowledge from an introductory policy class last year, there so many things in this house bill that I find troubling. Even with oversized classrooms because of a shortage of teachers in Detroit, allowing non-certified “teachers” to take over classrooms. And merit-based pay isn’t going to magically “whip new teachers into shape”. Teacher performance is based on their training, their students, their administration, their location, and so many other factors – it’s not simply because of their “laziness” which this house bill believes is the cause of low school performance. The article quotes Senator David Knezek, who accurately sums up my thoughts about this house bill:

“Why is it okay to subject Detroit’s children to an unequal, unproven model of education,” Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights told the Detroit Free Press. “This is not about educating the children of Detroit, but you’re so desperate and catering to lawmakers (in the House) who are more worried about keeping their jobs in November than educating the children of Detroit.. This arrangement is little more than a stay of execution for the Detroit Public School district.”

Even just from this one article, I can tell that many of the current policymakers of Detroit have the best interests for the community. As I read articles and house bill proposals for Detroit schools, I get more and more frustrated with the obvious political moves that push aside the true needs for Detroit students and teachers. Seeing how easily the democrats were overpowered and pushed aside in the house bill negotiations, I worry about how much of an impact I can make as an education policymaker.

But at the same time, reading articles like this reignite my passion for more equitable and accessible education. By knowing the injustices in education policy in cities like Detroit, my drive for helping form more positive education reform is strengthened. As the summer continues, I hope to build more context of the Detroit education situation through my internship as well as through articles like this – which will hopefully lead to thoughtful and helpful policy decisions in my future in education policy.

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