The program is as much a social experiment aimed at leveling the playing field of access to higher learning as it is an economic development initiative meant to generate school revenue, boost the economy and reverse the effects of a middle-class flight – some say “white flight” – that began in the 1960s and continued after the 1973 court-ordered desegregation of the city’s public schools.
Students and parents in Kalamazoo believe the program has made children’s educational futures so secure that some have scrapped their college-savings plans to buy household items, such as TVs.
Teachers say students and parents are showing more concern about their children’s performance in school.
Home sales are up, and enrollment in the public school system – roughly 11,000, down 40% from four decades ago – is on the upswing. The 985 new students this school year brought an additional $7.5 million in state aid, and the district hired 50 new teachers. No new taxes were levied because of the promise.