The Intersection: How Education Was an Issue in 1967…and Remains One Today

Years after the Kerner Commission cited need for improvements to education, what’s happened in metro Detroit?

Education and issues surrounding it. The history of desegregation (and busing) in southeast Michigan. What lawmakers are (not) doing to make improvements. All are topics of conversation as WDET’s Sandra Svoboda and Michigan Radio’s Lester Graham joined Detroit Today Host Stephen Henderson as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative project “The Intersection.”

Svoboda discussed a survey, commissioned by the DJC to explore racial attitudes in the region. Some of the questions, she says, were about the quality of schools, and the poll found black and white residents in southeast Michigan are split in their opinions. Overall, respondents say education is a No. 1 issue for the region along with crime and public safety. 

A slim majority of white residents – 56 percent – say they are satisfied with the education provided by local schools in their communities. But just 29 percent of African Americans say the same. While more than two-thirds of blacks in southeast Michigan report they are not satisfied with education in their communities, just over a third of whites agree.

“When you think about unbelievable turmoil we’ve seen in Detroit for a very long time, those numbers are not very surprising,” Henderson says.

History also informs the results. The Kerner Commission cited improving education as a measure that was needed to improve conditions in urban America for African Americans. “There was a moment we could have fixed all that,” Graham says, His piece, “A Moment that Sealed the Detroit Schools’ Fate,” chronicles the Milliken v. Bradley case that challenged busing as a way of achieving some racial integration.

“It was very controversial and I have to say it’s still very controversial,” Graham says.

The U.S. Department of Education has reported, Graham says, that integrated classrooms result in better learning. “The question is how do we get there,” Graham says. “It doesn’t start just in Lansing. It starts at the local level.”

For more reporting about issues in education, visit The Intersection project.

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio link above. 


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