Engler Eyes Chicago Model For Michigan

Published March 1, 1999

Like Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York, Michigan’s Governor John Engler is looking to Chicago as a model for school reform: He wants to allow Michigan mayors to take control of underperforming local schools, just as the state legislature gave Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley control of his city’s schools in 1995. Takeovers of failing districts also have occurred in Ohio, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, California, and West Virginia.

If school officials in Detroit are nervous, they should be: The 263-school, 180,000-student system is Engler’s main target. Only one in three of the Motor City’s ninth-graders graduate in four years and less than 10 percent of its high school graduates can read at a twelfth-grade level. Here’s what they could see if Engler’s proposal wins approval by the GOP-controlled legislature:

  • Mayor Dennis Archer is given responsibility for Detroit’s public schools;
  • the elected school board is dissolved;
  • Mayor Archer appoints a five-member board, which would hire a CEO to run the district;
  • social promotion of students ends;
  • ineffective principals are fired;
  • summer school becomes mandatory for failing students; and
  • privatization of busing, food, and janitorial service is increased.

Privatizing bus service alone has saved the Chicago schools $20 million over the last three years.
Detroit Free Press
January 25, 1999

Latino Group Split on Vouchers

Although anti-voucher resolutions have been passed by the state and national organizations of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the leaders of the League’s local council in San Antonio, Texas, have created a lobbying group that advocates publicly funded school vouchers . . . and they are funding that group.

LULAC’s national president Rick Dovalina says local councils do not have the authority to go against established policy, but attorney Luis Vera, president of San Antonio LULAC Council 4625, disagrees.

“Every council is autonomous,” Vera told the San Antonio Express News, noting that his council had formed San Antonio Parents for School Choice as an offshoot of the local LULAC organization. He and his colleagues had been promoting vouchers for about two months and had contributed between $10,000 and $15,0000, but at the end of March they planned to ask other local LULAC councils to join in their efforts.

“My goal is simply to get low-income parents the opportunity to choose,” declared Veda. “Why should someone who is poor be forced to stay in a low-performing school?”
San Antonio Express-News
February 2, 1999

Extremism in Milwaukee

Sponsored by People for the American Way and the local affiliate of the NAACP, Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., visited Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on December 8 last year to stir up enmity against vouchers and to foil efforts to expand parental freedom in education. In an essay written shortly before his death, the late Quentin L. Quade was struck by the extremism of Jackson’s remarks and concluded that Jackson “broke loose from the limitations of rational dialogue.”

Jackson claimed that the voucher movement in America was an effort to keep white students separated from black students; Quade noted that the Milwaukee and Cleveland programs primarily benefit poor minority students and help support what are probably the most integrated schools in their communities. Jackson further claimed that voucher programs were segregationist political schemes that originated in the deep South (“Ohio? Wisconsin?” asked Quade) and that “the crowd who lost the Civil War is now running the federal government.”

“Mr. Clinton would probably find that interesting , if it was he Mr. Jackson was talking about,” commented Quade. “And if it was not he, then presumably it was the GOP majorities in Congress, the heirs of Lincoln, whose government won the Civil War.”

“With friends like U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the public schools don’t need any more enemies,” noted Madison’s Wisconsin State Journal.
Educational Freedom Report
January 22, 1999

California Voucher Initiative

Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and former state school board member, is drafting a school voucher initiative to place on the March 2000 ballot in California. Under his Local Choice Amendment, parents could receive a publicly funded voucher of up to $4,000 per child to help pay for that child’s education at a private or parochial school.

“The public schools need competition from the outside so they will improve themselves,” said Draper in a telephone news conference on February 2. “We have a system that’s not working, and it’s been headed down the hill for 20 years.”

The money for vouchers for parents with children already in private schools would come from the savings the state achieved from the overall program. In the first year of the program, those parents would not be eligible to receive a voucher, but they would receive a partial voucher in the second year, and eventually the full $4,000 voucher.
Sacramento Bee
February 3, 1999
Contra Costa Times
February 3, 1999