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Detroit’s Collegiate Academy-Northwestern High School on March 8 hosted the NAACP’s latest public hearing on education quality, reports the Detroit Free Press.

It was the fifth stop of a nationwide tour led by the organization’s National Task Force for Quality Education, which launched in October with a mission to take “a deep look at the issues facing public schools, as well as the pros and cons of charter schools.” 

Much of the discussion in Detroit centered on charter school accountability and its impact on traditional public schools, according to the news outlet.

The NAACP, which in October set off controversy among its members by ratifying a moratorium on charter school expansion, pressed the issue of charter schools in Detroit’s troubled public school system.

Kisha Verdusco, the school system’s director of charter schools, explained to the task force how the school district holds charter schools accountable, which includes its policy of banning contractual arrangements in which management companies receive all the school’s funding. She also told them that charter schools do not outperform traditional public schools.

“Why do we need charter schools?” asked task force member Derrick Johnson. Many charter school opponent, like Johnson, argue that they redirect resources from financially challenged traditional public schools.

The New York Times highlighted, what it describes as “chaos,” the scramble among charter schools in Detroit for students and funds.

From the Times:

“While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.

“Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit’s traditional public schools.

“Attendees shared “a multitude of criticism” with the task force about charter schools, the Free Press reported. That criticism ranged from blaming charter schools for contributing to the woes of traditional public schools to complaints that charter schools lack transparency.”

That avalanche of criticism was balanced with the observation that many charter schools are succeeding.

“We’re not out to kill charter schools. We just want transparency and accountability,” said Alice Huffman, a task force member. “We know we have problems in public education, and we want to talk about that as well.”

Detroit’s public school system has been under a microscope since reports surface about the decrepit conditions of school buildings. Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed a $617 million bailout last year that many hope will help turn around the school system.

The task force has upcoming forums scheduled for New Orleans and New York City.

SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, New York Times


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