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Apparently half of Detroiters are functionally illiterate.

This is a classic Detroit problem: every possible solution sucks. Charters obviously won't work because we have them, and we suck. More money for the public schools is impossible because you can't squeeze blood from a stone.

Labor-saving devices can't really replace teachers, because no computer is gonna convince a 15-year-old girl to get off the phone and do her homework. Increased parental involvement would be nice but a) it's impossible to legislate, and b) if mom can't read how's she supposed to know little Johnie's wasting time on the internet instead of doing research for a bio paper?

The only non-futile solutions I can think of are below the fold. But I have to warn you, they range from the barely-not-futile to impossible.

In policy terms there are a couple places you could go.

One is put the Municipal government in charge. This has the advantage that in big cities with school systems that don't suck like NY the school system is run by the same guy who runs the police. It's just a lot easier to co-ordinate the most important bit of local government with the rest of local government if one guy is responsible for both. The drawback is the new City-run School System would still have no tax money, which makes this solution barely-not-futile. It's also politically unlikely because Kwame tried it and lost.

A second is to break the district into smaller districts. The advantage here is that neighborhoods like the place I grew up (Woodbridge) could easily start a fairly successful school district. The problem is most of that 47% who can't read live in the ghetto, and the ghetto can't pay taxes. So their new school district is screwed. In other words this solution is de facto a way to make sure that the only people who suffer from shitty Detroit schools are poor and black.

The third is to blow up the whole mess. Replace local property taxes with a single state-wide tax and give every accredited school in the state money based on how many students go there. This is problematic from a policy point-of-view because it would result in every rural school in the state having to teach Intelligent Design, and not very likely politically because most Michiganders like their school systems. Moreover the unions would fight the idea tooth-and-nail. Nobody likes it when his workplace changes, and this would be a big change for teachers.

My favorite idea is to grow the district, so that tax revenue from places that can pay taxes would subsidize the DPS. The problem here is you'd have to be incredibly stupid or a Saint to let your school district merge with the school district that delivers DPS results. Moreover to actually accomplish something you'd probably need the school systems from the entire Metro area to join. Under Michigan law that would take referendums in every school district involved. And it's not clear even Detroit would vote yes. So it's pretty much politically impossible.

In theory a single act of the Legislature could do the job. But no sane suburban Detroit Legislator is gonna vote for that bill unless he knows his people want it, and if his people want it there's no need to go to the Legislature.

Actually one reason I don't totally hate the Fiscal Emergency Management Bill that lets poor cities screw unions is that it also allows the Governor to disband local governmental units.  That's a very new idea in Michigan, and it's probably necessary if we're ever gonna fix the Detroit schools.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Kinda OT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    johnny wurster, Edger

    But I recently read a serious opinion piece about selling (or leasing) Detroit to the Chinese. Which, when you think about it, could be a very good thing, indeed.

  •  you seem to be very trusting of your governor. (0+ / 0-)

    what is it that has led you to believe in him so?

    Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues. The Gita 3.21

    by rasbobbo on Sat May 07, 2011 at 02:59:59 PM PDT

    •  I said I didn't totally hate his bill (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not that I like him. That the bill would allow him to screw unions is bad. Really bad.

      But it would also allow him to screw a group of people I think need to be screwed: Mayors of two-block suburbs who think their tiny little enclave's needs are more important then the needs of the other 4 million people who live in the Metro Detroit region. And, for the record, I am including the City of Detroit itself in that condemnation.

      Since this is the only law in Michigan that would allow the Governor to screw any Mayor it has to be viewed as a step in the right direction by me, at least on that issue.

      BTW, I'm not exaggerating  much about Detroit's Mayors. There are more then 100 of them, and one presides over a city that's two blocks wide (Grosse Pointe Shores). If you want to read about how petty these guys can be google Tienken Road Barricade. Keep in mind that there's no racial BS going on here because everybody's white, the BS is entirely generated by the failure of two stupid little suburbs to agree on whether Tienken Road should be a thoroughfare or a local road.

      Then imagine trying to move the city into the 21st century by building a subway line that connects either one of those tiny little suburbs to any majority black area.

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