More than 7,000 messages from charter school advocates have been sent to state legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder in the past few weeks, all of them sending a clear message: We don’t want a Detroit Education Commission (DEC).
The messages have come from charter school parents and advocates. To date, 934 unique individuals have sent 7,147 messages in opposition to the DEC. The bulk of the messages have come from charter school parents and advocates in and around Detroit.
“That’s a remarkable number of messages on a single topic,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), the state charter school association. “Charter school parents and advocates overwhelmingly feel that the DEC would limit their school choice, and they’re letting Lansing know about it. These messages are filling Legislators’ inboxes, and we believe that they’re really making a difference during this debate. Parents are very passionate when you start talking about taking away their choices. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of parents sending thousands and thousands of messages. It’s parents, not politicians, that should be in charge of their child’s education.
“Make no mistake, charter school parents in Detroit are overwhelmingly opposed to the DEC,” Quisenberry said. “We know that from polling, we know that from talking to them and we know that from the number of messages legislators have received.”
The state House and Senate are currently debating whether to include a DEC in the legislation surrounding Detroit Public Schools. The DEC would be a politically appointed board (all seven members would be appointed by the mayor) with wide-ranging powers over both charter schools and traditional public schools in the city. The DEC would take power away from the locally elected and locally appointed school boards that oversee DPS and charter schools in the city.
The DEC is opposed by a coalition of education organizations and community groups, including MAPSA. Those opposing the DEC say its main purpose it to prop up DPS at the expense of charter schools.
Backers of the DEC, including DPS Emergency Manager Judge Steven Rhodes, have confirmed those fears, saying that charter schools need to be tamped down in order for DPS to succeed.
“The DEC would limit choice for parents and students as its sole purpose is to help rectify the hole that DPS has buried itself into,” Quisenberry said. “With such a biased goal that’s guiding this commission, it’s only safe to assume that charter schools will receive unfair treatment as far as selection of school closures and charter openings to only benefit DPS by increasing their student enrollment.”
The number of messages lawmakers are receiving is consistent with polling that shows Detroit residents overwhelmingly feel there should be more school choice in the city, not less. A 2015 poll of Detroit residents showed that 77 percent feel their should be “more choices” when it comes to schools, while only 11 percent felt their should be “less choices.”
Among parents, the numbers were even more overwhelming; with 80 percent of Detroit parents favoring “more choices,” and just 6 percent feeling there should be “less choices.”
“The DEC is all about limiting choices for parents in order to prop up DPS, and we see, parents don’t want that,” Quisenberry said. “Parents want to be in control of what school their children attend. They don’t want politicians and bureaucrats making those decisions. And as we’ve seen, they’re letting Lansing know about it.”