The struggling Detroit city school system is about to receive a major boost from the formerly bankrupt, now profitable General Motors automakers.
Coming from GM’s philanthropic outlet – the General Motors Foundation – the United Way of Southeastern Michigan will collect $27.1 million over the next five years to improve graduation rates at five to-be-determined metro Detroit high schools, according to the United Way and the foundation.
United Way will target its work specifically at schools with dropout rates of nearly 50 percent and in the parts of Detroit suffering the most from manufacturing job losses, according to a GM Foundation statement.
The money will fund replication of United Way’s Networks of Excellence model, the first of which established multiple small academies at five Detroit schools in 2008. The aim of breaking the school down into smaller units was to be able to give more personalized attention to students at the large urban schools.
In recent years, according to a study by America’s Promise Alliance, Detroit had a 25 percent high school graduation rate, the lowest among the nation’s largest 50 cities. Michael Tenbusch, United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s vice president of educational preparedness, said the release of that study sparked United Way’s creation of the first Networks of Excellence. Foundations and corporations supplied $3.2 million in funding for that operation, and the state of Michigan provided $5.3 million.
The five new schools will be chosen using an application process, and schools that are selected will split $5 million a year for the next five years. They also will share $425,000 a year over the same period that will be used to set up Early Childhood Learning Communities near the high schools to prepare children for kindergarten.
GM’s investment in the Networks of Excellence model comes after data from the United Way program showed that students at the five schools now involved in the project have already shown dramatic improvement in performance in just one year. The United Way says 83 percent of the students are on track to graduate.
“We want to transform Southeast Michigan into the home of one the top five most skilled and educated workforces in the nation,” said Michael J. Brennan, president and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Michigan.