measuring up

District vs. charter schools in Detroit: Who’s offering arts? Busing? Special ed? Here’s some answers.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn

The face-off between district and charter school leaders Wednesday night produced  fiery moments and tense exchanges. But it also produced something useful for parents and community members: a new way to compare the services they provide.

When the advocacy group 482Forward invited Detroit School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti and the leaders of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers — Grand Valley State University and Central Michigan University — to speak at Wednesday’s first-ever State of the Schools Address, it gave them a list of facts they wanted them to bring. Among them: How many of their schools provide arts, music, special education, bus transportation and other services.

Scroll down to read their responses.

Also, if you missed the debate Wednesday, you can catch the replay below.

Some of the exchanges worth skipping ahead to include Vitti’s response to a question about the value of school choice, about 35 minutes in.

“Let’s be real. This is competitive,” he said, before launching into a discussion that ended with, “In the context of Michigan, choice has been disastrous because it has not had guardrails … We should not be allowing schools to open as if they’re corner gas stations, hoping that they do well for children.”

There’s another good exchange that starts around 54 minutes in when Vitti rebuffs the suggestion from charter leaders that Detroit schools could collaborate to benefit all city kids.

“At the end of the day they’re trying to recruit students from our system .. and we’re trying to do the same thing,” Vitti said. “So when’s the last time Mcdonald’s and Burger King got together and shared their recipe for hamburgers?”

That prompted a response from Grand Valley’s Rob Kimball who said: “This is not about burgers and fries. This is about kids’ lives and kids’ dreams.”

Below the video are the data documents provided by Grand Valley, Central Michigan and the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Here’s the panel discussion.

And here’s the panelists answers to audience questions:


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: