“Charter schools mean suicide for public schools,” said Detroit’s new superintendent, Connie Calloway, at her first board meeting.
Calloway said Detroit Public Schools must get to the root of the persistent enrollment loss plaguing the 116,000-student district.
The district is losing about 10,000 students a year with many going to charters. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick wants to open 25 new charter schools in unused school sites.
She identified two immediate reasons: ongoing disputes the district faces and the desire of parents to have safe, clean and orderly schools.
“We have to think about the presence that we put forth to the media, to the state department, to the rest of the United States as a Detroit Public Schools community,” she said. “What is it that we are doing that causes us to drive families away?”
It might be running unsafe, dirty, disorderly schools in which few students excel academically.
Because of drop-outs and transfers to charter and suburban schools, only 25 percent of students who start ninth grade at a district-run Detroit high school will graduate from a district school four years later, estimates an Education Week survey. The state estimates that Detroit Public Schools’ graduation rate is 61 percent.