A few blocks away from Bernita Bradley’s house, the Detroit Public School district ends and the Grosse Pointe Public School System begins. The border is invisible, but with a 12-year-old daughter enrolled in DPS, the reminders for Bradley are impossible to ignore. Every student seems to have a Macbook. There’s the annual Grosse Pointe toy drive, which distributes free bicycles to kids who need them. And there are the parks with shiny new playground equipment, where parents routinely ask Bradley, “Do you live around here?”
“Ours are torn down and dilapidated,” Bradley says. “Just seeing theirs makes me feel bad.“
According to a new report and interactive map by the education think tank EdBuild, the district border that Bradley navigates as a parent and an activist (she helped launch Enroll Detroit, which distributes information about school enrollment requirements to families) is the most income-segregating in the nation. The median property value in DPS is $45,100, versus $220,100 in suburban Grosse Pointe, and roughly half of the city student population lives in poverty, compared to one out of every 15 students across the district line—a difference of 42 percentage points. Local per-pupil public revenue is about the same, at around $4,650 per student, but that’s because Detroit now taxes properties at a rate of 8.7 percent each year to pay for its schools. This is 47 percent higher than the rate paid in Grosse Pointe, “where, it goes without saying, there are most likely no vermin carcasses under the desks,” says Rebecca Sibilia, the founder and CEO of EdBuild, in an email to CityLab.