The biggest thing standing in the way of a conservative governor who wants to enhance school choice throughout the State of Michigan is the wall raised by wealthy conservatives.
Today, Detroit commentator and former Wayne County government chief of staff Bill Johnson took to the pages of the The Detroit News to ask Gov. Rick Snyder to “resist forcing the failures of core cities on the suburbs.” To Johnson, Snyder’s move to mandate cross-district school enrollment is nothing more than a “social-engineering experiment” that will result in the destruction of stable, middle-class neighborhoods. He writes:
Middle-class social status is earned – not a designation awarded by government’s manipulation of the social environment. This transplanted underclass generally has no experience buying a home, maintaining it, managing a budget, or adjusting to new neighbors with different values. No less is true for trying to force-feed inner-city students who are apt to bring a lot of baggage and few socialization skills to suburban school environments.
This may be the most hard-hearted argument in opposition to the governor’s proposal, but it’s well-aligned with the oppressive dogma institutionalized by the Grosse Pointe school board, which wants to insulate its residents who chose to invest in “premium housing stock” from urban encroachment and the “baggage” to which Johnson refers.
Johnson, not surprisingly, grounds his argument in the philosophy of local control. But this pretends that the governor wants to control how Michigan’s school districts educate their children. He does not. His plan only would begin to dismantle the de facto private school systems in metropolitan Detroit that reflect just how segregated its neighborhoods are. It would mandate only that schools cannot refuse students from other districts as long as they have open seats.
That is the definition of public.