State of the Schools

TONIGHT: Watch Detroit’s first State of the Schools address here

Panelists at Detroit's first State of the Schools address. From left: Sascha Raiyn (WDET TV), Erin Einhorn (Chalkbeat Detroit), Robert Kimball (Associate Vice President for Charter Schools at Grand Valley State University), Nikolai Vitti (Superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District) and Cindy Schumacher (Executive Director of the Gov. John Engler Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University).

In Detroit’s fiercely competitive school landscape, conversations about education are often framed as us vs. them, district vs. charter, public vs. private.

But Wednesday night, at a Catholic church in Northwest Detroit, the leader of the city’s main district will come together on stage with the charter school authorizers who oversee a majority of the privately run public schools in the city.

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti will be joined by Rob Kimball, who heads the charter school office at Grand Valley State University, and Cindy Schumacher, who heads the charter school office at Central Michigan University.

GVSU oversees 26 of Detroit’s 60 charter schools while Central oversees six schools. Collectively, charter schools — including schools in nearby suburbs — enroll slightly more than half of the city’s 95,350 students. With 53 percent of kids attending charters in Detroit and surrounding suburbs, Detroit  now has the third-highest percentage of charter school students in the nation behind New Orleans and Flint.

Vitti has vowed to compete with charter schools and lure students back to the main district.

The discussion at Gesu Catholic church, sponsored by the advocacy group 482Forward, will take place from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday night. It is open to the public (RSVP here) or watch the discussion live here on Chalkbeat or on our Facebook page.

Early investment

Foundations put $50 million behind effort to improve lives of young Detroit children

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The heads of the Kresge and W.K. Kellogg foundations, Rip Rapson and La June Montgomery announce a $50 million investment to support the new Hope Starts Here framework.

The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.

As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.

The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.

Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.

The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.

Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.

Watch the video of of the announcement here.

Detroit's future

In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.

The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:

  • More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
  • Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
  • Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
  • That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.

Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Read the full framework here: