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Parents protest two-tiered education at Grand Rapids Public Schools

A group calling itself Grand Rapids Education Justice says GRPS separates children on the basis of race, ability and economic worth.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At Grand Rapids City High School, 90% of the graduates are ready for college. But at Union and Ottawa Hills High Schools the number is only 5%. 

Some parents and members of the community say its evidence of what they call a “two-tier education system.” A group that calls itself Grand Rapids Education Justice went to Monday night’s Board of Education meeting with picket signs to protest.  They say separating children and depriving them of educational opportunities based on race, ability and economic status is not fair.

“We want to make sure all students are treated equally and are able to get the best education possible,” said Brenda Bierns. “This two-tier system separates children according to their ability, race and economic worth.”

“We just don’t believe that’s a fair and accurate statement,” said Grand Rapids Public Schools director of communication John Helmholdt.

Helmholdt says urban school districts all over the country are searching for ways to increase the number of college ready high school graduates.

He says it goes beyond the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

“This is not something the school board or superintendent did,” he explains. “These are the remnants of many decades of old policies and practices and procedures.”


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