Deadline Now: Toledo Public Schools
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Deadline Now: Toledo Public Schools

Friday, May 6, 2011

Toledo Public Schools are facing a crisis and a challenge like no other in their history. On one hand, they are struggling with declining enrollment and less funding. At the same time, local leadership is attempting to radically restructure the system. Superintendent of Toledo Public Schools Jerome Pecko and Jim Gault, Chief Academic Officer for the system, are Jack Lessenberry's guests this week.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

Not long ago there were stories that about a wave of young suburbanites moving back to Detroit. I asked the area’s leading demographers how significant this was. His answer was: Not very.
“Yes, you can create gentrified areas of the city,” he told me, “but the only people you’re going to be able to attract are the newly wed and the almost dead.” The reason: The schools.

Detroit Public Schools, once one of the proudest systems in the nation, are now a ghastly failure. They have been losing ten thousand students a year, and for good reason. They are failing in every possible sense of the term, from test scores to financial accountability. They are now run by a state-appointed emergency financial manager, and with few exceptions, the only parents who put their kids in these schools are those without any choice.

The collapse of public education in Detroit has consequences beyond failing a generation of students. Cities like Detroit and Toledo desperately need to attract new business and industries if they are ever to regain their former prosperity. But it is going to be well-nigh impossible to attract any middle-class families to move into town unless you have public schools in which people can have confidence.

Toledo Public Schools are not in any way as troubled as those in Detroit. But they have problems, and things have been getting worse. If something isn’t done to arrest their decline, it may soon be almost too late.  Superintendent Pecko has proposed some bold plans that may well be worth a try. But he and his staff can’t save or revive the schools by themselves. Toledoans have to do it.

Toledo has to decide that a vibrant, successful school system is worth whatever that takes, and whatever it costs. That’s partly because our children deserve better lives, and also because this town cannot possibly revive without excellent public schools.

We, and the schools, likely face an interesting few years.

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