Moral Low Ground

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Detroit to Close Half its Public Schools

February 23, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Education, Rich & Poor with 0 Comments

Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the United States, a city where nearly 40% of high school students don’t graduate, has been ordered by Michigan state education officials to shut down 72 of the city’s 142 schools over the next four years. Such a move would reduce public school enrollment from 73,000 students to 58,570 and increase the average class size to a staggering 60 pupils. On the bright side, a $327 million deficit will be eliminated.

Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager, said the that closing the schools was a last-ditch emergency measure that would strengthen the school district in the long run. “I believe the district can work its way out of these challenges,” he told the Detroit News. “It will take some time. I am a firm believer we have to continue to make the deep cuts, and they are going to be painful. In the long run, the district will be stronger. There can be no retreat.”

But Bobb admits that the cuts will drive students away from school in a district that has seen graduation rates actually rise in recent years. Just four short years ago, fewer than 25% of Detroit’s high school freshman finished high school. Today, less than 1 out of 5 students drop out and 62% graduate. Closing half the city’s schools at this time is certainly not the way to encourage this positive trend to continue.

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