Detroit Shows that Poverty is Not Stopping Parents from Opting for School Choice

More Detroit students in poverty attend charters than go to Detroit Public Schools

A charter school teacher.

The far left Eclectablog repeats what is becoming a recurring drum beat in public education in Michigan – poor people can’t afford school choice.

If Detroit serves as an example, statewide statistics show that not only can poor families afford school choice, they often times prefer it.

There are 51,083 students from Detroit attending charter public schools, which exceeds the 49,172 Detroit students who attend Detroit Public Schools. And about 89 percent of Detroit charter school students are eligible for free-or-reduced lunch status compared to 82 percent of DPS students, according to an analysis of data from the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) and Michigan’s Educational Entity Master database.

There are more Detroit children in charter schools than the conventional schools and a higher percentage of those students are in poverty. And according to the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University, on average the Detroit charter students have higher learning gains than their conventional school counterparts.

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That refutes the message being sent by conventional public school advocates.

Eclectablog wrote: "The proponents of for-profit charters will tell you that this is all about parental choice. It’s a myth, of course. Or, perhaps more accurately, a lie. Students in the poorest families don’t have the choice to simply send their children to a different school. That requires resources many of them simply do not have. So, instead of being able to move to a higher quality school, they are trapped in a school with diminishing resources and which is slowly circling the drain as they are told they must ‘compete’ on an insanely uneven playing field.”

The far left blog is simply following the lead of anti-school choice advocates in spreading that talking point.

In December of 2012, 71 conventional public school superintendents from west Michigan signed a letter that ran in MLive stating: “Instead, the choices we have created through market-based reform have produced cookie-cutter public school academies serving middle class students while creating a permanent underclass in our inner cities. Why? We believe that families struggling to maintain a roof over their head and food on their table simply do not have the resources to shop around for educational opportunity.”

And State Board of Education President John Austin stated in a June 2014 email to Michigan Capitol Confidential: “Many parents and their students can't execute a choice if they wanted to … they don't have time energy, transportation money to pick or get to a different school.”

Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry said charter schools are most popular in places where poverty is the highest.

“That’s true in Michigan and it’s true around the country,” Quisenberry said. “That’s because parents aren’t seeing their child’s educational needs met by the traditional public schools in those areas, so they’re seeking out better options. About 90 percent of the charter schools students in Detroit are eligible for free and reduced meals. You can’t get out of poverty unless you get a great education, and you can’t get a great education unless you’re able to choose the right school. That blogger is actually making the argument for more charter schools in those areas.”

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