BY ROCHELLE RILEY
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
In her first year hearing criminal cases in Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Linda Parker learned one big thing:
There was a common denominator,” said Parker, who took the bench in January 2009. “At least 70% of the people who came before me had two things in common: They had not finished high school, and they had come from extremely impoverished backgrounds.
“I don’t want anybody to think that a lack of education is the reason for crime,” said Parker, who declined to discuss any education plan, but only the need for good education. “But it is a reason, because they don’t have any options. It’s not an excuse. But it is a reason. They get out there, realize they can’t do anything, nobody would hire them, and they’re trying to make a quick buck. I very rarely see people who have evil in their heart. It’s just people making really bad decisions because they didn’t have any other options.”
In the past five days, the city has seen more attention paid to Detroit’s schoolchildren than in recent history.
Excellent Schools Detroit — the coalition of foundations, community leaders and parents that offered the first plan — wants to create an independent commission to publicly monitor all schools in the Detroit Public Schools, demands a high school graduation rate of 90% by 2020 and calls for mayoral oversight of the school district.
The plan from Robert Bobb, the DPS emergency financial manager, would equalize education so that every student would have the opportunity to get what only children in the district’s best schools, such as Cass Tech High and Renaissance High, get now.
It also would require parental involvement, set new standards for attendance, performance and promotion — and increase class offerings so that DPS looks more like the suburban schools where Detroit parents have been moving their children for the past 20 years.
The outside plan in and the inside plan out. Where the two meet in the middle finally could be the partnership the city so desperately needs to help its children.