Thirty years ago, the Secretary of Education in the Reagan Administration, Bill Bennett, declared the Chicago public school system to be the worst in our country. In the 1990s, control over these public schools was returned to the mayor, on the theory that local control could make it work. But Chicago public schools, like those in many other places, are still broken. Since 2007, enrollment in Chicago public schools has declined, while spending on those schools has sharply increased.
Detroit public schools are in even worse shape. They have more than 3.5 BILLION dollars in debt for a student population much smaller than Chicago’s. Teachers have even been loaning money from their own paychecks to keep some public schools afloat in Detroit, and the school district owes them $16.6 million that the schools do not have the funds to repay. Taxpayers statewide will be required to pour more money into these failing city schools. The Michigan state legislature may act to bail the Detroit school system out, to keep it from defaulting on its obligations this spring.
Despite the billions wasted on these and other public schools, students are still not learning basic literacy skills. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 93% of the 8th graders in the Detroit public schools are not proficient in reading, even though it does not require much money to teach a child to read. Parents should realize that many schools fail to teach their children how to read. Parents can and should teach their children to read using phonics, at home, at a cost of less than $100.
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