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June 13, 1972 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1972-06-13

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Urban schools decay: Crisis in education

By PAUL RUSKIN
lAST TUESDAY'S decision by
the Detroit Board of Educa-
tion to significantly shorten the
coming school year dramatically
illustrates the desperate crisis
now facing most American urban
school systems.
They have been decaying along
with the cities they serve for
the past decade. As a result, the
poor, mainly black, have been
left behind to suffer the con-
sequences as their richer neigh-
bors flee to the suburbs.
Most urban school systems are
now failures, both economically
and educationally.
THE DETROIT system is a
case in point. The quality of
education has been declining
steadily in recent years. State
achievement tests show that De-
troit school children are at the
lowest level of achievement in
the state.
Economically, the situation is
even bleaker. The current eco-
nomic crisis has occurred be-
cause city voters refused to en-
forse two millage proposals
which would have provided $60
million for the coming school
year.
Furthermore, the state board
of education has refused to allow
the Detroit system to operate at
a loss this year - in fact, the
state is demanding that the De-
troit system begin to repay
some of the loans it has receiv-
ed in the past six years.
The Detroit schools have been
financially insolvent for six years
and the voters' rejection of the
millages only dealt a d e a t h
blow to a system which has been
seriously ill for years.
Detroit school officials haven't
been able to come up with any
long range solution to the prsb-
lem and all the stopgaps pro-
posed for the coming year in-
volve drastic cuts in service. The
plan tentatively set, to cut the
school year by 63 days, will pro-
bably never go into effect be-
cause of opposition from teach-
ers and from the state. The
teachers stand to lose 35 per
cent of their pay if the plan were
instituted.
The millages might be put on
the ballot again in August, but
if they are passed, they would
not provide revenues for t h e
coming school year, but only
for the following one.
Finally, the state may allow
Detroit to postpone the payment
of its debt. In that case, the com-
ing school year would still have
to be cut by 33 days and the
crisis would reappear n e x t
year.
Only a major overhaul of edu-
cational financing will solve the
fiscal problems plaguing urban
school systems throughout t h e
country.
THE SUPREME 'gourt will
rule during its next sessin whe-
ther school financing systems
which result in poor districts
spending less on education than
rich ones violate the Constitu-
tion. The specific case on appeal
is a Texas federal court ruling

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School Board and the Virginia
State Board of Education.
THE SUPREME Court nas a
unique opportunity to restruc-
ture the American educational
system.
By supporting equitable financ-
ing and the use of metropolitan
school systems to eliminate se-
gregation caused by discrimina-
tory housing patterns, the Court
would go a long way toward
changing separate and unequal
to together and equal.
Integration and equal financ-
ing, however, are not enough.
There are serious dangers in-
herent in the full scale integra-
tion approach.
First, there can be no real in-
tegration and no real equal edu-
cation as long as tracking of stu-
dents according to perormance
on middle class weighted tests
is fostered by education experts.
The inevitable result of this
technique is that the races are
housed in the same school build-
ing but effctively resegregated
into "high" and "low" classes.
A second danger concerns the
hiring and firing of blank teach-
ers and administrators. One 01
the very few healthy signs that
has emerged in the Northern ur-
ban centers is the large number
of black teachers and admin-
istrators being hired. There is a
serious danger that this trend
will be reversed if the blacks be-
come a powerless minority with-
in an integrated system.
In Arkansas, which las achiev-
ed a good deal of i~steg'cstion
since 1964, the number of black
principals has dropped from 134
to four in eight years, a 97 per
cent drop.
In Alabama there has been' a
three year decline from 250 to
50. In Florida there were 102
black principals in 1963. Now
there are 13. Georgia, Louisiana
and Mississippi have experienced
declines of 115, 68, and 250 re-
spectively. And so it goes
throughout the South where there
has been integration.
Between 1968 and 1970 the
number of black teachers in
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana,
Mississippi and Alabama de-
creased by over 100-while the
number of white teachers shot
up by over 400.
These figures indicate that any
effort at integration must pro-
tect the jobs of black teachers
and administrators and m u s t
ensure that proportionate num-
bers of new blacks are hired.
THE INTEGRATED metropoli-
tan educational system, equit-
ably financed and protected
from both excessive tracking and
discharge of black personnel, is
one path toward saving o u r
troubled urban schools.

that financing based on 1 r c a 1
property taxes is .inconstitu-
tional. Under this system of fin-
ancing, poor districts often pay
(as Detroit does) a higher rate
of property tax than surrounding
richer or more industrial d i s-
tricts, but there is a higher re-
sultant per pupil expendiLure in
the rich districts because of the
larger tax base.

cent personal income tax and 2
per cent value tax on industry.
The added revenues would be
divided among the school d i s-
tricts of the state.
Milliken's system, particularly
if it is modified by the initiation
of a state graduated income tax
would effectively correct the
current economic disparity in
school financing. Whether his

of local and central state offic-
ials."
Merhige ordered Richmond and
its two counties to merge their
three systems into one "metro-
politan" system. No school in
the new system would have over
40 per cent black students.
But last week, a higher federal
court reversed the Merhige de-
cision and thereby prevented
Richmond from implementing
the metropolitan system this
year. However, the fate of me-
tropolitan school systems rests
in the hands of the Supreme
Court, which will rule on the
subject within the next year.
At the same time, it will pro-
bably rule on a forthcoming de-
cision by U.S. District Judge
Stephen Roth, who has pledged
to devise some kind of metro-
politan system for the Detroit
area.
Recently appointed Justice
Lewis Powell will almost cer-
tainly disqualify himself from
the Richmond case because he
served on the Richmond C it y

"In Arkansas . . . the number of black prin-
cipals has dropped from 134 to four in eight
years."

If the Court upholds the Texas
ruling, states will be forced to
devise more equitable systerms of
school financing.
In this state, there is w i d e
disparity in the level of financing
among the more than 600 school
districts. To eliminate the im-
balance, Gov. William Milliken
has proposed new financing sys-
tem. It would replace the pro-
perty tax with a 2.3 per cent in-
crease in the state's 3.9 per

(1

system is adopted or not, the
important point is that inequit-
able financing should disappear
if the Supreme Court supports
the Texas ruling.
BUT MONEY ISN'T the only
problem. For example, even in
well financed urban districts, ob-
servers note, teachers often have
low expectations for the predom-
inantly black student bodies.
When the teachers subsequently
put less emphasis on academic
performance, the students' edu-
cation suffers.
The Richmond, Va. system is
a graphic illustration. The Rich-
mond schools, which are 70 per
cent black, spend more money
per pupil than do either of Rich-
mond's two affluent neighboring
counties, Chesterfield and Hen-
rico, which are about 90 per cent
white.
Nevertheless, the National As-
sociation for the Advancement of
Colored People NAACP) filed a
court suit against the city and
two counties, charging that black
and poor children in Richmond
were being deprived of a decent
education because of the segre-
gated systems.
U.S. District Judge Robert
Merhige upheld the NAACP
charges in what has now become
a landmark decision. Merhige
said that "the duty to take what-
ever steps are necessary to
achieve the greatest possible de-
gree of desegregation . . . is not
circumscribed by school division
boundaries created and main-
tained by the cooperative efforts

Edited and managed by students at the
University of Michigan
Editorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual
opinions of the author. This must be noted in all reprints.
TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 1972 News Phone: 764-0552
NIGHT EDITOR: PAUL TRAVIS
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR: ARTHUR LERNER
ASSISTANT NIGHT EDITOR: NANCY ROSENBAUM
PHOTO TECHNICIAN: GARY VILLANI
Simmer Staff
BOB ANDREWS ................................... Associate Sports Editor
ROBERT BARKIN ...... ....... Night Editor
JAN BENEDETTI. . . ... . . . . ..Night Editor
ROSE SUE BERSTEIN............. Co-Editor
DANIEL BORUS ........Sports Night Editor
ROBERT CONROW...............................Books Editor
LINDA DREEBEN. ......... Night Editor
DENNY GAINER. ....... Puotography Editor
ANDY GOLDING .............................iusiness Manager
MERYL GORDONs.......Asistant Night Editor
HARRY HIRSCH........ . Display Manager
SHERRY KASTLE .......Circulation Manager
KAREN LAAKKO ....... Classified Manager
ELLIOT LEGOW........ .. . Sports Editor
ARTHUR LERNER.. ..... ...Co-Editor
DIANE LEVICK.Assistant Night Editor
DAVID MARGOLICK.... ..Photographer
SHEILA MARTIN.. .... uGeneral Business Assistant
JIM O'BRIEN............ ..Science Editor
CHRIS PARKS. .... Night Editor
NANCY ROSENBAU I. ..... Assistant Night Editor
PAUL RUSKIN .s.......Assistant Night Editor
ROLFE TESSEM..........,Photographer
PAUL TRAVIS ........... . ...Night Editor
GARY VILLANI .... . . ..........Photographer
JIM WALLACE...... . . ..... ..... Photographer
DEBORAH WHITING ..... . . . . . .Circulation Assistant
CAROL WIECK .........,General Business Assistant

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