Is it Time to Get Rid of Detroit Public Schools in Favor of All Charters?

Pro-charter group and some Republican lawmakers say it’s time to dissolve DPS

As state lawmakers debate a $700 million bailout to avert the financial collapse of Detroit Public Schools – some Republicans say it’s time to just get rid of the state’s largest school district altogether. In a recent op-ed in the Detroit News, Republican state Representative Tim Kelly of Saginaw Township wrote: 

“We shouldn’t sentence another generation of Detroit students to certain failure while selfish adults figure out ways to game the system in a new, but still corrupt and failing, school district.”

Gary Naeyaert is the Director of the Great Lakes Education Project. He generally agrees with Kelly.

We’re talking about a particular district that has shown itself to be so academically and financially bankrupt that it has forfeited its right to teach our children.” he says. “[But I] wouldn’t agree with the premise that our goal is to eliminate all public education in Michigan.”

Naeyaert says he doesn’t think Governor Rick Snyder’s current plan for DPS working its way through through the state Legislature via the Senate is a good one.

“The governor has proposed a plan…to create a mini-me, DPS 2.0, that’s going to be no different than the current district,” he says. “There’s no question that [DPS] is the worst urban school system in the country.”

“If DPS has an F, [charter schools] have an F+” says Chastity Pratt Dawsey, reporter for Bridge Magazine. “Why should parents want either of those choices?”

Naeyaert says if Detroit moves to an all-charter system, charter schools will “give students what they need; more time on task.”

Ariella Cohen is editor-in-chief at She lived in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, when the city went to an public school model that was composed primarily of charter schools. Cohen says at charters in New Orleans, “Graduation rates and test scores have gone up, but the measurement tools have changed quite a bit…The more difficult students who have brought down the test scores and graduation rates have been counseled out of the district.”  

Cohen says moving to a primarily charter school system has also negatively affected teachers at public schools. 

“Many career teachers lost their jobs, and unions lost their power which was destabilizing for many families…and many schools remain segregated.”

Katie Karie is a special needs teacher at a Walter L. Cohen High School in New Orleans, and a former teacher in the Macomb Intermediate School District in Michigan. Karie says many charters in New Orleans can’t operate on this district-wide model.

“[With the charter model] you can pull resources and really be intentional about the type of education you’re providing. A lot of charter schools struggle to meet the needs of the students that are more severe [special needs students].”

Click the audio link above to hear the entire conversation.