Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
A lot of people are talking about a recent report published by EdBuild, entitled “Fault Lines,” which concludes that the economic divide between the Detroit and Grosse Pointe school districts is the most extreme in the country. The report notes the parallels between economic inequality and racial segregation, and briefly addresses the lasting effects of the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974), which reversed the federal district court’s decision to order cross-district busing in the Detroit metropolitan area in the 1970s.
Of course, we’ve all known about this terrible divide for years. It’s nothing new. Don’t get me wrong; the racial and economic segregation in metro Detroit schools is a very serious problem. And it’s absolutely devastating. But why, do you suppose, is EdBuild pretending that it has made some novel discovery in this regard?
By highlighting the problem of segregation in metro Detroit’s public schools, groups like EdBuild attempt to garner support from those who read the headlines but never delve deeper into the story, cunningly appealing to their sense of social justice. Much like Michigan’s own Education Trust-Midwest, EdBuild and similar groups have a vested interest in portraying traditional public schools in the worst possible light. In short, they are in the business of selling the narrative that traditional public schools are broken beyond repair. This, in turn, opens the door for privatization, “choice,” new charters, and other measures taken directly from the corporate-backed “reform” playbook.
Look no further than EdBuild’s own website, which lists the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation as “partners and sponsors.” EdBuild might be a nonprofit, but it certainly has an agenda.
And what do we know about EdBuild’s founder and CEO Rebecca Sibilia? She worked for Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst before founding EdBuild. StudentsFirst has pushed for increased charter schools and “has advocated for eliminating or reforming teacher tenure systems and other changes.” StudentsFirst also actively defended former State Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) in his 2011 recall election. You might remember that Scott was recalled, in no small part, because of his public animosity toward Michigan public school teachers and teacher tenure protections.
The economic segregation in southeast Michigan schools — and the racial divide between the Detroit and Grosse Pointe districts — is truly pernicious. And yes, it is way past time that we solve this problem, a problem that should have been addressed (but never was) decades ago.
However, things are not always as they seem. Sure, EdBuild might have been right to point out this issue for anyone who wasn’t aware of it. But given everything we know about the organization, I strongly suspect that an ulterior motive was at work.