After the Fall: Continuity and Change in Detroit, 1981–1995

  • Jeffrey Mirel

Abstract

In 1988, a group of reformers—blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, business and labor—forged a well-financed and apparently powerful political coalition to take control of the Detroit Board of Education. Running as the HOPE coalition (the anagram made up of the first letter of the last name of the three candidates: Hayden, Olmstead, and Patrick for Education), these reformers promised to change the Detroit schools in ways that were quite similar to those the “new Progressives” had implemented in other cities. Upon their election to the board, the HOPE candidates worked diligently to place the school system on a firm financial footing, to run it in a more efficient manner, to establish closer ties with the city’s business community, to decentralize the district by empowering principals and local schools, and to create schools of choice that would enable parents to have alternatives to neighborhood schools. Despite some notable successes in these areas, in 1992, the HOPE initiatives abruptly ended as voters turned most of the reformers out of office following a series of bitter confrontations and crises.

Keywords

Depression Amid Income Assure Social Stratification 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Sidney Glazer, Detroit: A Study of Urban Development (New York Booknian, 1965), p. 129; Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, “Community Profile for Detroit” (Detroit, 1997), p. 3;Google Scholar
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  3. 3.
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  6. 4.
    The Children’s Defense Fund study is cited in Valerie E. Lee, Robert G. Cromnger, and Julia B. Smith, “Parental Choice of Schools and Social Stratification in Education: The Paradox of Detroit” Educational Evaluation and Polity Analysis 16:4 (Winter 1994), 438.Google Scholar
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    Don Tschirhart, “Election will revamp Detroit’s school board” 28 (1982), p. 4B; Radelet, “Stillness at Detroit’s Racial Divide,” pp. 173–190; New Detroit, Inc., “The Face of Difference,” p. 1. Busing was not the only reason that the Detroit schools lost enrollment. The poor quality of the education in most of the city schools also had an impact. Indeed, a 1990 survey conducted by the Detroit Free Press found that 14 percent of all African Americans in Detroit (and 25 percent of blacks with incomes over $20,000) sent their children to private or parochial schools. The figure was 43 percent for white Detroiters. Brenda Gilchrest, “A Choice that is Academic: Education System’s Curriculum Drives Students Away” Detroit Free Press (December 17, 1990), p. lA.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Renee D. Turner, “Renaissance High: Detroit’s Beacon of Achievement” Ebony 63: 10 (August 1988), pp. 64, 66, 68; Mike Wowk, “Panel Rates Detroit School Gain ‘Medium’ ” Detroit News (June 15, 1982), p. 12D; “Dropouts Join ‘Underclass’ at Alarming Rate” Detroit News (June 13, 1985), p. lA; Laurie Bennett, “41% of Detroit’s Pupils Drop Out” Detroit News (May 20, 1987), p. 1B; Mike Wowk, “Executive Says Grads Lack Skills” Detroit News (February 11, 1986), p. 4A; Editorial, “A City at Risk” (April 7, 1987) Detroit News, p. 8A. The ACT/SAT survey data are reported in William Snider, “In Backing Tax Proposals, Voters Endorse School Reforms” Education Week (September 20, 1989), pp. 1, 12. A 1988 poll found that only 14 percent of the people surveyed believed the graduates of the Detroit schools “were well-prepared to enter careers,” while 73 percent disagreed. See, “Detroit Casts ‘No’ Vote on Direction of Schools” Education Week (November 16, 1988), p. 12.Google Scholar
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    For more detail on this see David Angus and Jeffrey Mirel, The Failed Promise of the American High School (New York, 1999).Google Scholar
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    The quote on the auto industry is from Joe T. Darden, Richard Child Hill, June Thomas, and Richard Thomas, Detroit: Race and Uneven Development (Philadelphia, 1987), p. 27.Google Scholar
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    In 1984–85, for example, Detroit received 55.2 percent of its revenue from the state, 34.3 percent from local taxes, and 10.5 percent from the federal government. By 1991–92, the schools were getting 60.1 percent of their funds from the state, 28.6 percent locally, and 11.2 percent from the federal government. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics 1988 (Washington, DC, 1988), pp. 88–89;Google Scholar
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  13. 23.
    Editorial, “HOPE for School Board” Ann Bradley, “Crusaders in Detroit Fight to Keep Board Seats” Education Week 12: 7 (October 21, 1992), pp. 1, 10; Rich, Black Mayors and School Politics, pp. 39–40.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Russell, “Teachers Agree to 6 Percent Pay Raise,” p. 6A; Snider, “In Backing Tax Proposals”; Richard C. Hula, Richard W. Jeier, and Mark Schauer, “Making Educational Reform: Hard Times in Detroit, 1988–1995” Urban Education 32:2 (May 1992), pp. 211–214.Google Scholar
  15. 32.
    The HOPE team did pursue other initiatives besides empowerment and choice. One of the most interesting was the Detroit Compact in which school and business leaders worked together to aid high school graduates who had followed a rigorous, prescribed course of study in going to college or entering the workforce. While the HOPE team strongly supported this initiative, I have not included it as part of the overall HOPE strategy, as others have, because much of the groundwork for the Compact had been completed before the HOPE team took office. On the compact see, Ron Russell, “School Board Gets Scolding” Detroit News (September 22, 1988), p. 3B; Marion Orr, “Urban Regimes and School Compacts: The Development of the Detroit School Compact” The Urban Review 25:2 (1993), pp. 105–122; Hula et al., “Making Educational Reform,” pp. 207–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 33.
    The HOPE literature is quoted in Rich, Black Mayors and School Politics, p. 41; Ron Russell, “New School Board Hopes to Fix Financial Mess Without State Help” Detroit News (January 1, 1989), pp. 1B, 4B; Hula et al., “Making Educational Reform,” pp. 207–217. Actually, HOPE’s empowered schools initiative was something of a compromise between the Chicago and Dade County efforts. Unlike Chicago it did not make parents and community members the key policy makers in the schools and unlike Dade County it did not explicitly make teachers partners with administrators in setting school policy. On the different forms of urban school decentralization in the 1980s and 1990s see, John L. Rury and Jeffrey E. Mirel “The Political Economy of Urban Education” in Michael Apple (ed.) Review of Research in Education (Washington, DC, 1997), pp. 89–98.Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    “Detroit’s African Centered Academies” Black Issues in Higher Education V. 2 (February 24, 1994), pp. 18–21; Karen Houppert, “Establish Afrocentric, allmale academies” Utne Readers (January/February 1994), pp. 83–85; Kevin Bushweller, “Separate by Choice” The American School Board Journal 183 (October 1996), pp. 34–37.Google Scholar
  18. 36.
    Clifford Watson and Geneva Smitherman, “Educational Equity and Detroit’s Male Academy” Equity and Excellence 25:2–4 (Winter 1992), p. 90. “Update” Education Week (November 13, 1991), p. 3; Jawanza Kunjufu, “Detroit’s Male Academies: What the Real Issue Is” Education Week (November 20, 1991), p. 29;Google Scholar
  19. Arthur S. Hayes and Jonathan M. Moses, “Detroit Abandons Plan for All-Male Schools, Citing Bias” Equity and Excellence 25:2–4 (Winter 1992), p. 92.Google Scholar
  20. 53.
    See for example, Eric A. Hanushek, “The Impact of Differential Expenditures on School Performance” Educational Researcher 18 (May 1989), pp. 45–62; ibid., “Measuring Investment in Education” Journal of Economic Perspectives 10:4 (Fall 1996), pp. 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 54.
    Michigan Department of Education, “MEAP District and School Proportions Report, 1995: Detroit Public Schools” (Lansing, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John L. Rury 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey Mirel

There are no affiliations available

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