Michigan lawmakers have ignored inequities in education for too long
The following excerpt is from a guest opinion column by Amber Arellano and John B. King, Jr., published in the Detroit Free Press on January 15. Read the full article here.
This winter, Michiganders will mark two years since unacceptable conditions in Detroit public schools were widely exposed in heartbreaking detail in a court filing: students expected to learn in crumbling buildings and freezing conditions, among vermin infestations, not to mention a shortage of classroom teachers, books and engaging curricula. As we stated on our recently-filed brief supporting the right of Detroit students to learn, “[t]he problem in Detroit’s school district is not the children. The problem is Detroit’s schools.” Grave inequities between schools in Detroit and surrounding communities are a bleak indictment; they must no longer be ignored.
We proudly stand with the students of Detroit in demanding a quality education and, indeed, educational justice for young people who have been underserved and disenfranchised for far too long — insisting that state leaders take responsibility for providing an education to all students that prepares them for college, careers, and beyond.
In Michigan, fewer than 20 percent of black third-grade students and about 30 percent of Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds are reading and writing at grade level, compared to more than half of their white peers. The numbers are far worse in Detroit, where only about one in 10 students in third grade are proficient in those subjects.
These gaping disparities are indefensible. Ensuring progress toward an equitable and just education is absolutely critical to fulfilling the promise of America — and long overdue.
Students in Detroit and other struggling school systems are not behind their peers by their own choice or by chance. A history of underserving vulnerable communities, indefensible policies and wholesale neglect have led us to this place.
Michigan has the opportunity to begin to right historic wrongs and ensure that no child is allowed to advance to high school graduation unable to read. Instead of excusing the inexcusable and assigning blame, the state should take responsibility for its most sacred duty: ensuring a bright future for Michigan by insisting on an excellent and equitable education for every Michigan public school student.