Jane Jacobs is my second favorite economist or economics writer (Herb Simon is #1). In her thoughts on how an urban neighborhood unslums itself, she has a core insight.
Unslumming is the process of people who have the option to leave a neighborhood, deciding to stay instead. This leads to local maitenance investment, it leads to social capital being maintained and enhanced, and it leads to renovation, rehabilitation and new construction.
The core insight is for systems of extreme complexity (urban neighborhoods are such a system), with multiple stakeholders who engage in constant communication, quasi-coordinated actions that can create or consume social and community surplus, a healthy system will see a significant number of people who have options to leave deciding to stay. Good community development policy creates system of enablement for people to choose to stay — it can be the process of reducing barriers to credit (CRA for instance), it can be rerouting a bus line so that residential and employment centers are convientenly linked, it can be the fostering of neighborhood community organizations so that local collective actions problems can be solved. There are a lot of policy decisions that can enable people who want to stay but could reasonably leave to stay in a neighborhood. Sometimes this philosophy can be taken to the extreme (hi Richard Florida and his obsession on attracting the “Creative Class” marginally attached to space individuals) but it is a critical insight.
Already at an unmanageable target of 38 per classroom in grades 6 through 12, Emergency Manager Jack Martin’s fiscal year 2015 budget allows class sizes in those grades to expand to 43.
This is a policy designed to drive out both teachers with options and students whose parents have options. This makes working conditions for teachers worse. It makes the educational experience for students worse. Teachers who are not tied to Detroit Public Schools for either pension or healthcare reasons (and the proliferation of 401(K) and 403(b) retirement plans means there are few teachers with golden handcuffs) should be looking for employment in districts where there is a reasonable probability of actually being able to teach instead of babysit. Detroit will see a barbell distribution of teacher experience and competence. There will still be teachers who are hanging on for retirement with fully vested pensions, and they’ll be rookies who just need a job. The middle core of highly experienced and effective teachers will flee, leaving mostly incompetents who know they can’t find equivilant or close to equivilant work elsewhere.
Parents with choices who have chosen to stay in DPS should be the core of any reconstruction program. Instead more of those parents and their kids will leave the system as the marginal choice between stay and go just got pushed to GO. That is either fleeing to the suburbs, or going to Catholic schools, or charters or something else.
It is almost like the emergency manager wants to enable and accelerate a death spiral….