Mayor Dave Bing used the recent Big Four discussion on Mackinac Island to signal his readiness to take over the Detroit Public Schools once Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s contract ends.
I have been scratching my head since that announcement because Mackinac was the wrong place and time to make such an announcement, one that would only reignite the takeover and racism sentiment some Detroiters have from the past.
We all agree that DPS has gigantic problems that the Board of Education turned a blind eye to. We know that the board appears to be more concerned with contracts and gigs than curriculum for Detroit children.
Yes, we acknowledge that there are deep problems with DPS as the ongoing investigations into corruption at the district reveal.
But the question of whether or not the mayor should be in control of the schools must be left up to voters to decide. The decision is theirs.
What Mayor Bing and Gov. Jennifer Granholm said on Mackinac Island played right into the hands of those who have long been suspicious that racism has been part of the driving force behind DPS’ problems. While that thinking, in my view, has little merit, DPS’ problems have a long history and go beyond all the superintendents the district has had in the last 15 years.
Robert Bobb has come in to clean up the culture of corruption and get the district back on track. But his detractors have branded him as one out to destroy DPS. Yet these same people are not offering any alternative to the crisis that has gained national media attention.
The mayor would do himself and all of us a favor if he let the community make the call for mayoral control. Anything less than is doomed because despite his good intentions for the schools, he will be entangled in another “takeover” and race battle.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bing has a lot on his plate. I don’t think he wants another battle that will take away from putting the city of Detroit, that is awash in red ink, back on the right track.
Both Bing and Granholm may have the best intentions for DPS. But those intentions cannot be trumped at the expense of what voters want for their school system. We cannot circumvent the process. The mayor’s advisors should have known that the discussion around taking over the schools belongs in Detroit, not on Mackinac Island.
Regardless of what happens, for the sake of the students, there has to be a cohesive relationship between the superintendent of schools and the mayor of the city of Detroit.