MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
NPR's Larry Abramson has the first in a series of stories about the attempt to save public education in Detroit.
LARRY ABRAMSON: Greg Richmond, of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, says when the city first approached him with this idea, he hesitated.
GREG RICHMOND: I was concerned when I first heard about Detroit's ideas of starting a large group of charter schools this year, that they were trying to do too much too fast.
ABRAMSON: Principal Janice Richardson says that's the only reason this school is slated to close.
JANICE RICHARDSON: Declining enrollment and a deteriorating building. But other than that, we're an achieving school and we're recognized as being high-performing.
ABRAMSON: The school's scores have been above the state average, at least until recently. But in a city facing a massive school budget deficit, enrollment numbers are all that matter. Now, there is a way out. Carstens could become a charter. Janice Richardson and her staff say, no thanks.
RICHARDSON: It would satisfy DPS. However, it wouldn't satisfy us. We would preferably like to remain a Detroit Public School.
ABRAMSON: For one thing, a charter school would sweep aside the school's union contract and pension benefits. But veteran teacher Barbara Haug is against charters for another reason. She believes they reject the struggling students who come to schools like Carstens.
BARBARA HAUG: They get the kids. They get the cash. And then a little bit after that, they're suddenly not a good fit anymore.
ABRAMSON: Unidentified Woman #1: What has compelled you to come to this session, learn a little bit more about charter public schools...
ABRAMSON: Some in the audience don't seem to believe Angie Irwin of the National Charter Schools Institute. She explains that Michigan law treats charters pretty much like traditional public schools.
ANGIE IRWIN: Charter schools are required to administrator the same state tests as a traditional system in Michigan.
ABRAMSON: Many of these people are products of DPS. They seem stunned that the system that educated them is deemed a failure and in need of help from outsiders. They want to know...
ROBERTA PRICE: Why is the focus on charter schools? Why can't the traditional schools do this?
ABRAMSON: Roberta Price, an alum of the Detroit Public Schools, can't see why changing who's in charge will make a difference. DPS has some fine schools, others point out, competitive exam schools that attract the city's elite. During coffee breaks, there's a lot grumbling.
NORRIS: I am not giving up on DPS. I don't care what nobody says. I'm tired of hearing that bad rap about us.
ABRAMSON: Greg Richmond, of the Association of Charter Authorizers, says that shows the city is no longer in denial.
RICHMOND: Detroit has lost tens of thousands of students over the past decade. And people have realized they have to change the way they do things in order to turn that around.
ABRAMSON: Larry Abramson, NPR News.
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