New York Times Wrong: Detroit Charter Schools Didn't 'Desert' Kids, the City Did

Mayor and city council banned selling shuttered schools to charters serving neediest children

The New York Times’ problematic reporting on Michigan’s charter schools has raised eyebrows among education reformers. A previous story here described how the newspaper created the impression that well-heeled anti-charter school interests in Michigan lacked resources to compete with charter school defenders, including Betsy DeVos, who is slated to be the next U.S. secretary of education.

The same story also suggested charter schools had declined to serve the neighborhoods where the neediest Detroit students live.

The Times wrote: “But that will mean shutting down mostly traditional public schools, which in Detroit serve the neediest students, and further desert students in neighborhoods where charters have largely declined to go.”

ForTheRecord says: The New York Times was either unaware of or ignored a roadblock that local political leaders placed in front of anyone seeking to open a new charter school. The city of Detroit and Mayor Michael Duggan had banned the sale of 77 properties — including many closed school buildings — to any charter school that wanted to locate within one mile of an existing district school.

Michigan Capitol Confidential reported earlier that a resolution imposing the ban was adopted four days after the Detroit’s exit from federal bankruptcy court was approved. That meant the city was so intent on stopping charters it turned down potential revenue from selling empty buildings.

From the April 20 Michigan Capitol Confidential story:

“Within a week of a federal bankruptcy judge confirming the final amendment to a $6.8 billion city of Detroit bankruptcy plan in 2014, Mayor Michael Duggan approved a ban passed by the city council on selling $11 million worth of city-owned property to any charter school located within one mile of an existing Detroit school district school. The property that the city acquired from Detroit Public Schools included 53 closed school buildings.”

The map of the city’s schools shows how restrictive a one-mile ban within the city limits can be.