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

Friday, March 1, 2013

Toledo Public Schools (TPS) is once again looking for a superintendent. Jerome Pecko, the current superintendent, is leaving the district after three years. What's ahead for TPS? What kind of leader is the system looking for? Brenda Hill, president of the TPS Board of Education, and Bob Vasquez, former board president and current member of the board, are this week's guests.

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

Fewer than sixty miles north of Toledo, there’s a city that has failed in about every possible way. It is called Detroit.

Within a few days or weeks, Michigan’s governor is expected to name an emergency manager to run Detroit. And if there is one institution in worse shape than the city, it is Detroit’s public schools, which are already under an emergency manager.
They have been, in fact, for years.  Detroit Public Schools enrollment is in virtual freefall. Ten years ago, they counted more than one hundred and fifty thousand students. Today, there are barely fifty thousand left, a number that is continuing

to decline.
Those who have been fleeing Detroit frequently say that high on the list of reasons they left was the schools. Yes, crime is a problem in Detroit. So are other things. But in order for any city to attract stable, middle-class residents, it has to have a school system they are willing to put their children in.

Detroit doesn’t have that any more. Oh, there is still one good high school, and more than a few dedicated teachers.  But otherwise, things are so dysfunctional and erratic that a majority of those living in the city now put their children in charter or private schools.

Those choices may make sense if you have enough money to see that your child gets a good education -- or if you have the time and sophistication to figure out what the best charters are.
But throughout American history, communities that make public education work have been the communities that have thrived.

Now, Toledo Public Schools are not in nearly as bad a shape as those in Detroit. But there are certain disturbing similarities between Detroit in 1963 and Toledo in 2013.

Detroit once had good schools. Extremely good schools. But a number of factors, from racial tensions to changing expectations to a loss of tax revenue, changed everything.

There was a time when different choices might have meant a different outcome for Detroit and its schools.

The past could have had another pattern. There are lessons Toledo schools may be able to learn from and mistakes they might avoid.