By Kyle Olson
MUSKEGON, Mich. – The story of Muskegon Heights Public Schools hasn’t garnered any national headlines. It’s a small urban district with huge financial and academic problems, which is not uncommon throughout the nation.
But Muskegon Heights, unlike many troubled urban districts, has a glimmer of hope for future success. That’s because a state-appointed emergency financial manager recently floated a plan to transform the district into a first-of-its-kind charter school district, run by outside managers who would have the option of bringing in many new teachers and administrators.
Of course officials from the local teachers union came unglued over the idea of current teachers losing their jobs.
The union president, Joy Robinson, was quoted by Mlive.com as saying, “The Heights teachers have been providing a quality education to students all along, despite the district’s financial problems…”
No offense, but Ms. Robinson is full of crap.
Recent statistics from a state test show only 6.8 percent of 11th graders are proficient in reading and writing while a paltry 2.2 percent of the same students are proficient in math.
You call that a quality education? Are the students wearing ear plugs in class? These children are clearly not learning, which means the school district and its staff have failed miserably.
At a recent community meeting – where the depressing test scores were showed to hundreds of people – Robinson said the reason the scores were so low was because the test that was used is “culturally biased.”
We guess she was referring to the fact that the student population in the Muskegon Heights district is overwhelmingly black.
Stop it, Ms. Robinson. The tests are designed to measure skills and knowledge that all kids will need to enter college or the workforce, regardless of their race. The teachers have presumably spent a great deal of time teaching the students the type of material they were tested on. If the students still aren’t getting it, the teachers are to blame, not the test questions.
If race were a factor, how do you explain the existence of hundreds of thousands of black students around the nation who are thriving academically in countless other schools? Kids can learn just about anything, if their instructors are competent and help them believe in themselves.
The union certainly can’t blame a lack of funding for the poor test scores. Data shows Muskegon Heights received $15,013.21 per student to deliver education, the most of any district in Muskegon County.
It’s time for union leaders to stop worrying about their members and give someone else a chance to do what union teachers couldn’t. Does that mean creating the state’s the first-ever charter district? It would certainly be better than the deplorable status quo.
During the meeting, some people demanded that any charter school operator contracted to run the new district have non-profit status. They can’t stand the idea of anyone making money in the education business.
We would argue that the teachers union has been making a big profit from the district for years, from the overpriced employee health insurance coverage it’s been selling the school board, and automatic dues coming out of teacher paychecks.
What’s wrong with a different entity making a profit, particularly if it manages to improve the level of instruction in this pathetic excuse for a school district?