By Dr. John Telford
‘SPEED – Saving Public Education with Excellence in Detroit: Charting our Cheated Children’
I have a vision in my heart and in my spirit and my soul
That Motown’s children in my chart will never have to pay the toll
Of poverty and ravaged mind, or end up dead or on the dole,
But will in EDUCATION find their life-affirming future goal.
James Hare of the Quick-To-Learn agency and WSU Prof. Tom Pedroni have shared with me their research that charts the decline of student test scores during the state’s unwarranted sixteen-year takeover of DPS–which takeover for all intents and purposes remains unjustly extant. The failure of the democratically elected “Old-Co” DPS Board to get elected to the “New-Co” DPSCD Board, the ongoing existence of a state-engendered “financial review commission” overseeing the district’s finances, and the lack of any plan on the part of the “NewCo” district’s current administration to raise the “new” district’s 44 Priority (bottom-5%-scoring) schools one sigma (one standard deviation statistically) within two years (the minimum to raise them from Priority status) virtually ensures the new district’s demise via the closing and chartering of nearly all of its schools and surrendering them to charter agencies. The DPSCD administration’s plan merely puts lipstick on the pig: It is a ten-year (!) “Ready, aim, AIM” plan that aims at the wrong target and then doesn’t even fire. On November 8, all but one member of my SPEED Slate that consisted of the old and rightful Board and me–their chosen pro bono Superintendent–came close but failed to get elected to the new Board. SPEED Slate member LaMar Lemmons–the President of the old Board–was elected narrowly (into the seventh slot of seven) and will now have to carry the standard for all of us and for our beleaguered children. I hope the new Board proves incorruptible and progressive enough to acknowledge Lemmons’ institutional memory and his expertise as a former state representative and votes him President, so he can sit on the Financial review Commission and militate to get it to do what’s best for the children–because closing and chartering all of the city’s schools definitely isn’t what’s best for the children. This Lansing-engendered “new” Detroit Board of Education represents the final effectuation of the1999 state takeover of DPS and its disenfranchising followup emergency management law. In1999, DPS had a surplus of $114 million and its students’ scores were at the state midpoint and rising. After all those years under state mismanagement, DPS is $3.5 billion in debt, and except for the scores of the 15-school “Educational Achievement” Authority (the EAA–which is now being returned to the “new” district), DPS scores are now the nation’s worst. For the children’s sake, this new Board is going to need to embrace all of my following seven SPEED-Agenda Items if it sincerely wishes to preserve public education in our city:
- Immediately implement the research-based and proven strategies developed at WSU and pilot-tested by the Detroit-based Quick-To-Learn, Inc., and verified in some formerly low- performing DPS classrooms, to raise grade-level reading proficiency beyond national norms in order to turn around all of our Priority (failing) schools within two years.
- Eradicate and terminate the looting of our schools by requiring that programs costing more than $500,000 be carried out on a pay-for performance or social- investment-bond basis similar to that proposed by Quick-To-Learn and by similar ones under way in the state of Utah and elsewhere.
- Use the Board seat as a bully pulpit in Lansing and with the major media to get DPSCD out from under state financial oversight and induce the state to pay for the sixteen-year fund deficit its unwarranted takeover created–and Interact closely with the DFT to ensure that its membership, along with the greater Detroit community, survives and prospers economically.
- Commit to total transparency at all Board meetings and agree to use technology so that all Board meetings appear live in real time on the Internet and local cable to be available for review by the public.
- Support a specifically item-pinpointed forensic audit so that previously stolen resources can be regained to further support the survival of Detroit’s public education.
- Develop a Detroit Promise to assure all high school graduates a community college associate degree with a marketable skill.
- Sign a letter to Governor Snyder and Attorney General Schuette calling upon them to prevent the Michigan School Reform Office orany other state entity from closing any former DPS school or any current or former EAA school before 2020.
State and local forces have converged and focused resources on our community to avoid the forensic audit that would inevitably uncover their criminal malfeasance, and they now are free to take the final step toward privatizing public education entirely in our city. Were that not the case, this superfluous and additional-taxing “New-Co” district never would have been formed. The prize they seek is the $1 billion annual revenue (federal, state, and local) associated with the 130,000 K-12 public-school students.residing in Detroit. The ‘Detroit News’ went on record as opposing my Board candidacy while deliberately misrepresenting my Agenda, and a local television station tried to discredit Mr. Lemmons’ candidacy because his wife was running for (and now has won) a Board seat as well.
New federal regulations empower states to do anything they choose to schools in the bottom five percent. Furthermore, they empower the states to implement their “remedies” for students who don’t achieve reading proficiency by the close of the third grade. Currently, 88% of DPS third-graders do not read proficiently. Thus, any new Board member who won’t publicly endorse my SPEED Agenda is either unwittingly or wittingly a part of the corporate-subsidized disloyal opposition that intends to hand over our schoolchildren to the rapacious charter-school officials and their unregulated schools.
Detroit author, poet, columnist, radio/television host, former international track star, recent mayoral candidate, and SPEED Slate school board candidate John Telford was Wayne State University’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year in 2001 (for human-rights activism), a 1982 Fellow of the Kettering-sponsored IDEA (Institute for the Development of Educational Ideas), a Joe Louis Memorial Foundation Spirit-of-the-Champ awardee in 2011, and a WSU (1978) and DPS (2014) Sports Halls of Fame inductee. An occasional Adjunct Professor at Wayne State and Oakland universities, Dr. Telford was publicly educated in Detroit from kindergarten through graduate school. His website is A Life on the Run. Hear his shows Sunday afternoons at 3:00 on WCHB NewsTalk1200. Read his columns in the Detroit Native Sun and periodically in the ‘Michigan Chronicle’ and on this website of D-REM (Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management). His crusading Detroit-oriented books are available at Amazon Books (type in Dr. John Telford) or by ordering them through him at (313) 460-8272 or at DrJohnTelfordEdD@aol.com.