The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Catherine Ferguson Academy:
A Hollow “Victory”

Jun 20, 2011

After months of protest and community outrage, Detroit’s Catherine Ferguson Academy will remain open after all. But it’s not a victory: the Detroit Public Schools will hand it and several other schools over to a for-profit company to run them as charters.

The Ferguson Academy is special: a school for pregnant teens and young mothers, it graduates 90% of its students and sends nearly all of them on to college. Along the way, it provides day care and early childhood education for these young women’s children, assuring a daily attendance rate of nearly 100%. It is one of only three schools in the country that do this.

But the Detroit Public Schools was talking about closing this extraordinary school anyway, saying it’s too expensive to run. Really? Yes, it has a bigger budget than most schools, but more than a million dollars of its 1.7 million dollar budget comes from state and federal at-risk grants, including Title 1 funds. If the district were to close the school, all of those funds would be lost to the district – so closing it never made much sense from a budget standpoint, even with a 327-million-dollar deficit.

Now the plan is to hand the school to a for-profit charter school company, Evans Solutions – which means all those state and federal funds will go to Evans now.

Evans promises that all the school’s programs (as well as the students, teachers and the principal who founded the school 27 years ago) will remain, intact – but promises are made to be broken, especially when profits are at stake.

How do profit-making charters improve their profits? They cut expenses – that is, teachers’ salaries, building upkeep and “expensive” programs that benefit the students – while stuffing their pockets with public money. Why would Evans Solutions be any different? Just because they say so now, when they’re being handed this cash cow?

How soon before the school’s on-site four-acre farm and medical care are deemed “too expensive”? The community, the students and even the principal would have no control over this; only Evans Solutions would.

At the same time, it was also announced that two other schools for at-risk students (who’ve been expelled from their neighborhood public schools for disciplinary reasons) will be “saved” – by being closed, and folded into other Evans charter schools. There goes even more federal funds, from the public schools into Evans’ pockets! Meanwhile, seven more DPS schools will just be closed. They didn’t have extra funds, so no charter company wanted them!

This isn’t a victory. It’s a money grab pure and simple, with Detroit’s students as the victims.