News Story

Union’s Rationing Scheme Would Consign Detroit Students To Inferior Schools

Teacher unions don’t want competition from nonunionized charter schools

The president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan said that Michigan should have a “certificate of need” process to limit the number of charter schools.

David Hecker, the union’s president, made the proposal in a recent Detroit Free Press column. The claim appeared again in an email delivering the union’s regular newsletter.

Hecker used the example of a particular Detroit charter school to support his proposal. A closer look suggests that Hecker's example illustrates why public charter schools are needed in the city with the nation’s worst urban school district.

Hecker pointed to the closing of a charter school called the Detroit Delta Prep Academy for Social Justice to illustrate the need for a rationing scheme to restrict the opening of new charter schools.

“If there was a ‘certificate of need’ process like that used in our healthcare system, it’s unlikely that Delta Prep or SWDCS (Southwest Detroit Community School) would have opened in neighborhoods already served by many schools,” Hecker wrote.

As Hecker said, there are several public schools in that part of the city. They include conventional district schools and charter schools. But many of the district schools have failed academically.

The charter school Detroit Delta Prep Academy For Social Justice serves students at the high school level, and it earned a C on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s report card. That publication adjusts the performance figure of each school to reflect the socioeconomic status of its student body.

A Detroit “school locator” website lets parents type in their home address and get a list of public schools serving their area. This website shows that there is only one nearby alternative for high school students who live near Detroit Delta Prep Academy. That alternative, the Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern, is a conventional district school. It received an F on the Mackinac Center’s report card, meaning that its students did poorly on state tests compared to other schools serving students with similar backgrounds.

While Hecker argues the charter school wasn’t needed and shouldn’t have been opened, the data shows that it was providing a better education than students would have received at the unionized Detroit school district school that his proposal would require many of them to attend.

The Mackinac Center’s report card combines many years of student performance on state tests with the socioeconomic background of a school’s student body. As a result, it can determine how much academic value is added by different schools serving similar populations. It is based on a methodology recommended by a 2006 University of Arkansas study.