Charter Schools v Detroit Public Schools
The covers of deplorable building and working conditions, oversized classroom, low pay and even lower teacher moral in Detroit Public Schools (DPS) have been pulled back and exposed to the public eye, through organized ‘sick-out’ by teachers. The general public was oblivious to what’s been going on in the cash stricken district for years. From emergency managers, mismanagement of funds and top-heavy administration has slowly eroded the district.
So, is there another option to educate children in Detroit? Yes. Many parents are choosing to send their children to charter schools. Charter public schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. Because they are public schools, they are: open to all children, do not charge tuition, and do not have special entrance requirements. STEAM Coordinator, a former teacher and nine-year veteran at University Prep School, Monica Smylor says the initial benefits of being in a public charter school is the class size and the resources available to the teachers. For example, the difference from a DPS elementary school classroom and a University Prep elementary classroom is that, although they may have 30 to 32 students in the classroom, each teacher is assigned a paraprofessional who is there every day to help assist the teacher. DPS teachers are not afforded that luxury or better described, that type of support.
Because public charter schools are tuition-free, how are they funded to provide these much-needed resources? The same way public schools are funded, through government school funding. Smylor says University Prep is given the same amount of cash allotted to DPS students. However, because of large overhead and mismanagement of funds, DPS has squandered their resources.
Although there are several other charter school districts to choose from in Detroit, what sets Univ. Prep apart is their uniqueness. Right now Univ. Prep offers two school choices, University Prep Math and Science that focuses on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum or University Prep Academy which focuses on the arts like music and dance. This gives the parent an option of putting their child in a school that directly teaches to their interest. But there are still challenges when it comes to attracting students to their school, especially the high school. Because of the legacy of the two largest, most popular and more prestigious schools in the city, many students transfer out of Univ. Prep schools to finish their high school years at Cass Technological or Renaissance high schools after middle school Smylor says. This hurts the district in keeping with their scholastic requirement of graduating 90% of their student body.
Although charter schools are the to savior for parents trying their best to educate their child in the midst of the hardships DPS schools are facing but, it’s definitely and option. University Prep charter schools come with its own set of challenges. It’s only been in existence for 15 years making it hard for parents to trust its success rate. They’ve only graduated two classes; making it hard for colleges to access its success in preparing students for high education. But one thing that Smylor says the school district offers that no other does in Detroit is an environment of the family. So, the story is yet to be told. The success of charter schools versus Detroit Public schools is one that’s too early to call.