If you can't join 'em, beat 'em

With a looming kraken-like budget deficit,
Detroit, like many cities, is looking for creative solutions. Last month, DPS
emergency financial manager Robert Bobb announced a plan to help right-size the
city’s education budget: close 40-plus schools and increase high-school classes
to up to 60 pupils a piece. That didn’t go over so well, so he’s back with a
new proposal: convert that same number of schools into charters. It’s hard to
tell from 1,000 miles away what Bobb might be thinking, but we assume that he’s
trying to get around the stubborn resistance of the Detroit Federation of
Teachers. Given DFT’s stubborn
refusal to negotiate or offer concessions
, and Detroit’s yawning deficit
(tallying in around $327 million), Bobb’s maneuver might be a smart ploy to circumvent
the contract. Still, it has charter advocates rightfully alarmed, as the
slapdash conversion of 40 underfunded, under-enrolled, underperforming schools
into “charters” is unlikely to result in a big success story. We appreciate
Bobb’s sense of urgency and willingness to shoot for the moon. We just hope he
doesn’t shoot the charter movement in the foot in the process.

Click to play

Click to listen to commentary on Detroit from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


Plan Makes Big Charter School Bet
,” by Matthew Dolan and Stephanie Banchero,
Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2011.

Declares ‘Financial Martial Law
,’” by Elspeth Reeve, National Journal, March 16, 2011.