The Promise

By on May 17th, 2012

Columns
Lawrence Glazer

Lawrence M. Glazer

The Promise

May 18, 2012
In 2005 Kalamazoo, like many mid-sized cities in America’s “rust belt”, was visibly fading, having gradually lost jobs, home values and tax revenues.
On November 10 of that year. a meeting of the Kalamazoo School Board opened. Michelle Brown, the Superintendent of the Kalamazoo Public Schools, stepped to the podium. Brown was about to reveal a closely held secret that she hoped would revolutionize the lives of her students and reach beyond them to the city itself.
A group of anonymous donors had funded a scholarship program to be known as the “Kalamazoo Promise”. Under its terms, any student who lived within the school district, attended its public schools and graduated from one of the district’s public high schools would be eligible for a scholarship paying all tuition and mandatory fees for four years at any Michigan public college or university, or at a community college until attaining a certificate. A student would have ten years to complete the degree. And the program was designed to continue long into the future.
The announcement made headlines around the nation. Nothing like it had been seen before.
But then Kalamazoo has always been a bit different. Unlike most Michigan cities, it’s major employers were pharmaceutical and paper manufacturers; its only car company was Checker Motors, which produced taxis.
Today, pharmaceuticals are still a major piece of the local economy, as are medical devices. Paper manufacturing is pretty much gone. And Checker Motors closed in 2009.
And from the start, community leaders and economists have regarded the Promise as much more than a scholarship program.
A year after the launch of the Promise, Ronald R. Kitchens, chief executive of Southwest Michigan First, a nonprofit regional economic development agency, told the New York Times that the Promise was “already working in Kalamazoo, influencing an economic transition from a collapsed industrial
past of paper and auto-related manufacturing to a new era of enterprise related to academics, science, medicine and engineering.”
Economist Timothy Bartik, a member of the Kalamzoo School Board, told Great Lakes Bulletin News Service, “The issue is broader than just the merits of tuition assistance … The issue is how communities and states can develop and attract human capital.”
Now, 6-1/2 years into the Promise, I wanted an objective look at the program’s impact on the community.
Since 1945, Kalamazoo has been home to the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a non-profit organization established to do research into the creation and maintenance of employment.
For scientific study of the Promise’s effects on the community, the Upjohn Institute was a natural. And it has enthusiastically accepted the role of lead organization for research requests on the Promise.
Dr. Michelle Miller-Adams, holding a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia, took leave from Grand Valley State University in 2006 to study the Promise’s effects as a visiting scholar at the Upjohn Institute. She has already published one book on the subject “The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo” and is at work on another.
Miller-Adams says that “the largest, clearest impact of the Kalamazoo Promise has been on enrollment in the Kalamazoo public schools, and a lot of things flow from that, both educationally and economically.”
The district’s student population had been declining for years. The Promise reversed that immediately. Enrollment grew by 10% (about 1,000 students) the first year, and growth has now reached 22%. This has led to construction of a new middle school and two replacement elementary schools, supported by the voters’ approval of millage proposals. These construction dollars have gone back into the community. Additionally, the incoming students bring their families, and the families bring their incomes and their spending.
Moreover, state funding is tied to student population, so the population increase has cushioned the state’s overall cuts in aid to local education.
Other economic impacts are more difficult to measure. Miller-Adams points to “a moment, soon after Kalamazoo Promise was announced, when it looked like we had an upward tick in the housing market” within the school district (the district includes the City of Kalamazoo). This was widely reported in the media. Others have pointed to Kalamazoo home prices, which had trailed Grand Rapids in 2005, then moved $17,000 higher in 2010 (Chris Andrews in Bridge Michigan, December, 2011).
But Miller-Adams and her colleagues have looked at the local housing market statistics periodically since that first year and they have not found a measurable impact on home prices. Yet, she points to something else of significance: after years of annual decline, the city’s population has stabilized. She thinks that the Promise may well be having a positive effect, but “the volume is not big enough to move the needle” on housing prices, given the very slack housing market.
Downtown Kalamazoo office, retail and residency vacancy rates are very good (the residential vacancy rate is a miniscule 1.9% and the retail vacancy rate is 10.4%, according to Downtown Kalamazoo, Incorporated (http://www.downtownkalamazoo.org/Do-Business/Economic-Indicators-Vacancy/Occupancy-Report.aspx). By comparison, Michigan’s over all residential vacancy rate for 2010 was 14.56% and Grand Rapids’ was 10.53%. Miller-Adams says that “whether this is [at least partly] a result of the Kalamazoo Promise is impossible to say”. She acknowledges the long-term downtown development work of Downtown Kalamazoo, Incorporated. Still, personally, she thinks that the Promise’s effect on overall morale and enthusiasm of the City’s people and businesses has “helped push that downtown dynamism forward.”
But perhaps the best effects of the Promise are yet to come. Many economists agree that the best jobs of the future will go to the areas with the most educated work forces. Miller-Adams says that roughly 90% of Kalamazoo public school graduates are going on to higher education. This is a fantastic number for an urban district. And 85% of the Promise students attending four-year colleges are on track to graduate. If most of them come back to Kalamazoo, the region should end up with one of the best-educated workforces in the country. And the jobs will follow.
Lawrence M. Glazer is the author of Wounded Warrior, a recently published biography of former governor and Supreme Court justice John Swainson. He is also a retired Ingham County Circuit Court Judge and former legal advisor to Gov. James J. Blanchard.

Lawrence Glazer

Lawrence M. Glazer is the author of Wounded Warrior, a biography of former governor and Supreme Court justice John Swainson, and winner of theIndependent Publisher gold medal in biography. He is also a retired Ingham County Circuit Court Judge and former legal advisor to Gov. James J. Blanchard. He currently serves on the State Board of Ethics.

23
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
23 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
23 Comment authors
Click This LinkGo Herehow to make your own websitehow to build my own websitelenticular 3d poster Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Rick Wiener
Guest
Rick Wiener

I have often felt that the Kalamazoo Promise was the premier urban redevelopment program in the nation – this without being a “bricks and mortal” program – and your article confirms that belief.

Lawrence Glazer
Guest
Lawrence Glazer

I made two errors in the story. The Kalamazoo schools superintendent was Janice Brown, not Michelle Brown. And Michelle Miller-Adams is not on leave from GVSU; she has combined that position with her Upjohn Institute work.

Richard Cole
Guest
Richard Cole

Nice piece, Larry (as always). I thought that those interested in the Promise might also be interested in the Dome piece I wrote in May of 2010. The article was reprinted in the Kalamazoo Gazette. In the article (http://domemagazine.com/atlarge/rc0510) I pointed out that this was not, in fact, the first Kalamazoo promise. The Cooley Decision (the same justice for whom the law schools are named) validated the right of residents of a taxing district (namely Kalamazoo) to tax themselves for the purpose of providing a free public high school education. I’m not sure I feel so good, by the way,… Read more »

Beth Leeson
Guest
Beth Leeson

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Flint had the opportunity to be a “Promise” city? Just imagine how this could transform the city in ways that no effect of government and foundations has thus far been able to do.

https://www.facebook.com
Guest

760813 952164Spot on with this write-up, I actually assume this site wants way a lot more consideration. I

Polaris ATV Parts
Guest

893790 380652I as effectively believe thence , perfectly pent post! . 786373

pagina
Guest

210692 780842Woh I like your articles , saved to fav! . 904557

how to make my own website
Guest

132741 20756I used to be more than happy to seek out this internet-site.. I dont even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. A lot more A rise in Agreeable. 148899

iphone 5s screen protector
Guest

307299 641445Some times its a discomfort within the ass to read what weblog owners wrote but this internet web site is rattling user friendly ! . 552880

jobs in dc
Guest

168694 476237quite good post, i surely enjoy this remarkable internet site, persist in it 557913

play free slots online with bonus games
Guest

171495 118795Thank you for having the time to discuss this subject. I truly appreciate it. I

chandler az windshield replacement
Guest

567536 273509Genuinely instructive and wonderful structure of content material material , now that

Hidemyass Pro
Guest

I simply could not go away your site prior to suggesting that I extremely enjoyed the usual info a person provide to your visitors? Is gonna be back incessantly to inspect new posts

web design in Austin
Guest

470485 10660 You created some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the problem and discovered most individuals will go along with together with your web site. 840310

photographer mesa az
Guest

201925 162730Excellent job! 580671

photographer mesa az
Guest

133633 612633Average In turn sends provides is the frequent systems that provide the opportunity for one

cheats guide
Guest

Excellent blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any tips? Thank you!

Check out Lenticuler printing
Guest

106479 232612A person essentially support to make seriously articles I would state. This really is the initial time I frequented your internet site page and thus far? I surprised with the research you produced to make this certain publish incredible. Amazing job! 339206

lenticular 3d poster
Guest

66575 575480Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, quite great article. 677486

how to build my own website
Guest

461740 324817I actually don

how to make your own website
Guest

782616 295092There is an ending. Just remember that I meant for this to be an art game. I do feel like I spent an inordinate amount of time on the far more traditional gameplay elements, which could make the meaning with the game a bit unclear. In case you mess about with it though, you will uncover it. 979740

Go Here
Guest

hello there and thank you for your info ¨C I¡¯ve definitely picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise several technical issues using this web site, as I experienced to reload the site lots of times previous to I could get it to load correctly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and can damage your quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my email and can look out for… Read more »

Click This Link
Guest

Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks


Dome Magazine © 2021

Web Design by Douglas Marketing Group