Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Benton Harbor’s school crisis needs more than a bandage fix

Tom Watkins

The Benton Harbor school crisis is ground zero for a dysfunctional educational funding model and a state government that has been pretending to address the problem going back decades.

I foreshadowed many of these issues in a report I wrote in 2004.  

If you have a hole in your roof, pretending to fix it does not keep the rain out. Our system of funding our schools is fundamentally, structurally unsound and follows economist Herbert Stein’s old adage: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” 

Related: Anguish in Benton Harbor as years of mistakes lead to a school's likely demise 

Addressing the Benton Harbor crisis should not be a Band-Aid, but a systematic cure. We need to ask: Are we going to prepare our students for their future and how do we create a rational system to do so?

Benton Harbor should be the 21st-century Kalkaska that forces the state to fundamentally change how we deliver and fund our schools. The Band-Aid request for Benton Harbor schools should be the impetus to spark an “Educational ‘Me Too’ ” movement.  We need to demand that the system be fixed. The problems in Benton Harbor should be a canary in the coal mine moment for education across Michigan.

Without a “real” systemic fix, the tragedy of failing the students of Benton Harbor is coming to a community near you. A child without a decent education today is an adult without much of a future tomorrow.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate Now