Put them in, that is, with a reasonable expectation they can get a decent education. An education that will enable them to go on to a university or a vocational program that will lead to a meaningful career? Michigan doesn’t have that now. Or rather, we have it in some places and not others, and the number of communities that offer really first-class education are shrinking.
We’ve managed, in my opinion, to create the worst of all possible worlds. We’ve largely taken local control away, but without providing enough state support to make sure every child gets a quality education.
Prior to 1994, education was a local affair. Bloomfield Hills voters could tax themselves enough to provide public schools that were better than many private academies. But there were other districts so poor they sometimes lacked adequate resources even to stay open all year.
Kalkaska was the poster child for these schools. So we then enacted something called Proposal A, which shifted responsibility for most public school funding to the state.
That was very good for the poorest districts, at least for awhile. But with the new state money came new restrictions. Districts were strictly limited in how much extra money they could raise via millages. Didn’t matter if local voters were happy to tax themselves for better schools; they weren’t allowed to. In some places, parents and students began drifting away to private schools or the new quasi-public charter schools, which varied widely in quality.
And as a lot of school systems are suddenly finding out, you are in real trouble if most of your funding comes from the state—and suddenly, Big Daddy runs out of dough. That’s what’s happening now.
I do not know a single Detroit politician, from Kwame Kilpatrick to John Conyers, who puts their children in the city schools. But most parents don’t have the money to send their kids to private schools.
As long as a city doesn’t have decent public schools, families, white, black brown or polka-dot, aren’t going to move there. As long as Michigan doesn’t provide acceptable public education for all its citizens, we aren’t going to be competitive, period. We need most of all to invest in our future. The state needs to guarantee that every school district has the resources necessary to provide the education students need to be successful.
If the voters of Holland want to tax themselves further and add an even better art program to their schools, that should be fine.