Asan increasing number of parents in the Detroit Public School system direct their children to schools just outside district lines, the battle between individual pragmatism and broad idealism threatens to further derail the city’s public schools. With each student who leaves Detroit schools, the district loses $7,500. And with an exodus of almost 15,000 students from the district this fall, the district stands to suffer quantitative losses – only worsening its already distressing financial situation.

Sarah Royce

Parents’ desires to secure the best education possible for their children often come to a head when dealing with failing school districts. Children become both the direct victims of declining schools and Detroit taxpayers’ strategic chess pieces. The moral compromise made by hopeful parents wanting their children – and tax dollars – to remain in the Detroit Public School district is often substantial.

It is not sensible to ask that all parents in the district sacrifice their children’s futures for a cause that requires time to show results. But progress will remain unthinkable with such a mass exodus of students. Answers are difficult to come by in a system so deeply mired in mismanagement and corruption, but district residents hold the key to improving schools: It will take time and the election of competent, visionary officials.

Financial loses of this magnitude cripple the district’s efforts to attract new students and cast a shadow over any hope for improvement in academic programs for the students that remain. Last week, Detroit Public Schools unveiled a plan to close 52 schools – including a number of high-performing and magnet schools with crowded waiting lists – in a last-ditch effort to make up for funding that district constituents no longer provide.

With more than a third of the city’s children attending schools outside the district, Detroit residents must address the crisis in civil responsibility that the district’s continued downward spiral heralds. Voters must demand increased transparency and administrative oversight. They must base their voting decisions on how well current leaders respond to their demands.

No team of administrators, parents or teachers can be blamed for the decay of Detroit schools; the process has been characterized by a long and tragic history of struggling with a shrinking tax pool. While the district’s decline has been further pockmarked by the incidence of corruption, assigning blame is hardly a worthy priority. Even those parents who decide to educate their children outside of the city school system must continue to strive to make the city schools better so that future generations don’t also have to commute beyond city limits for a decent education.

As the district stands now, responsible parenting may dictate driving children to other districts, but parents and residents must remain interested in and passionate about their city for things to ever improve. We know voters can be excited into action and that there have been overhauls of the school board in the past. While those attempts failed, they were for the most part commendable, and residents cannot be afraid to repeat them again. Change will come slowly and may take hold only after several false starts, but the sooner we begin, the better.

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