The auto industry in Detroit was once the silicon valley of the U.S., but the influx of black workers lead to white flight. The decentralization of automotive plants to other cities reduced jobs. Population dropped by forty percent.
Policies to curb dissent rather than face needed changes brought bankruptcy. The fall is city wide and may not be fixable.
Flint, Michigan suffered a similar fate. Now, press reports from Michigan describe poor decisions to cut costs that have resulted in thousands of children suffering from lead poisoning. Their brain damage is likely permanent. In order to save money in the troubled city, the governor appointed a financial manager who decided to shift the source of the water supply to a river. The pipes were lead, and the water did not contain chemicals to prevent their corrosion.
Clearly, city managers in the past had not been able to make decisions to stem the economic decline. Now, state officials have done no better. Anyone who could leave, left. Those who remained suffer. Schools are underfunded, and there is no local money to fix the problems. The children will have even greater problems than before.
Michigan is just one of many states with similar problems. Charter schools will not fix them. They could make the problems worse by further dividing communities and resources. What should be done instead? We could begin by facing these economic problems instead of putting them off. It will take a national will…local, state and federal energy must converge around viable strategies. This is the lesson learned from Detroit and Flint. Our children are at risk.