08/16/2013 11:15 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2013

Why Candidates for Detroit City Council and Mayor Need an Education Policy

When asked about Detroit education policy, city council and mayoral candidates frequently explain that while they care about education, there isn't much that a city council member or mayor can do to impact the quality of education in the city. While it is true that those positions don't have any kind of authority over the state policies and funding that directly impact Detroit's schools and early learning programs, I believe that there are many ways that our city council and mayor can influence the quality of the education our children receive.

Let's begin with the obvious: education is not limited to what happens in schools and early learning programs.

The opportunity for Detroit children to learn while out of school is significantly impacted by city policies with regard to the funding of cultural institutions/programs, recreation, transportation, and safety. Blight removal should be a top priority around schools and early learning programs, particularly the strong performers. And our families and students need better transportation options to get to their schools of choice.

Once elected, those candidates will also have bully pulpits from which they can talk about the importance of education. It is a shame that we haven't had an elected leader place school attendance more squarely in the public discourse. Schools can't succeed if kids don't show up, and our elected officials -- simply by talking about the issue more -- could begin to support higher attendance rates.

Other cities around the country, like Washington, D.C., now provide free early learning education for their youngest residents. We could do so as well, if we and our elected officials simply make it a priority.

Finally, candidates should be encouraging families to select the best possible schools and early learning programs for their children, and actively supporting the growth of good schools and the closure of bad ones in the city and their districts.

In the end, of course, the focus of our candidates for office is largely a function of our focus -- as the voting public. So, during this election season don't let our mayoral and city council candidates off the hook when it comes to the subject of education. If we demand that they help us improve the quality of the education being offered our children, they will have no choice but to listen.