James Craig reveals profound, dangerous ignorance of public schools crisis in Detroit

Dec 14, 2021 at 12:43 pm
click to enlarge Cass Tech High School in Detroit. - Steve Neavling
Steve Neavling
Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

One of the looming questions facing James Craig’s gubernatorial campaign is whether he has the experience and knowledge to run a state government.

On Monday, the Republican and former Detroit police chief demonstrated a profound and dangerous ignorance of the struggles facing Detroit’s public schools.

Craig said Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) should lose its funding if it fails to show improvements in standardized tests, MLive first reported.

Craig made the statement while visiting charter schools across the state.

DPSCD’s challenges are no secret. Since the 1960s, as white flight drained students from Detroit's schools, the district steadily lost state funding. Over the past two decades, the district closed more than 200 schools – often during failed state takeovers – and enrollment dropped from roughly 163,000 to about 50,000, a 69.3% decline.

In the meantime, poorly performing charter schools were opening in Detroit, drawing students from DPSCD and exacerbating the funding crisis.

By removing funding from DPSCD, the district would hemorrhage teachers and schools, triggering a potential death spiral in the state's largest city.

Craig also slammed DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, saying he “must go,” even though he’s helped retain students, and reading proficiencies increased under his leadership.

“Vitti needs to be held accountable, and if not he should either resign or the board needs to hold him accountable,” Craig said. “I would like to see progression.”

DPSCD quickly responded.

"We hoped that Mr. Craig, as gubernatorial candidate, would refrain from shooting from the hip on topics he is unfamiliar with but obviously this statement suggests that was not the case on the topic and complexity of test scores and literacy," the district tweeted. “If literacy rates in the district or city is reduced to this type of rhetoric then the entire state of educators and families should be concerned about his candidacy.”

The district added, “Before the pandemic and based on the last time DPSCD students tested at scale, factually the District’s improvement in literacy scores outpaced the entire state’s performance.”

The Michigan Democratic Party blasted Craig, saying his position on schools is dangerous.

“The only ‘magical thing’ happening here is James Craig thinking Michigan families, students, and educators will take his DeVos style voucher scheme sitting down," party spokesperson Rodericka Applewhaite said in a statement. "The reality is Craig has no plan to improve public education because he intends to snuff the life out of it entirely, which would only shortchange students, broaden inequality and further hurt the communities that need these resources most. This isn’t how a leader would keep Michigan first, but it certainly is a way for Craig to ensure his anti-public education special interests that he’ll stay in their corner.”

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