Jalen Rose on funding equity: “I know my scholars aren’t worth less than anyone”

Buddy Moorehouse
Jan 31, 2023 1:51:35 PM

Jalen Rose made his name as a member of the University of Michigan’s “Fab Five” more than three decades ago – a group of five freshmen who took the college basketball world by storm by doing things a new way.

Jalen has kept that attitude ever since. Don’t follow the crowd. Make change happen. Be a leader.

After a 13-year career in the NBA and a successful broadcasting career on ESPN and ABC, he brought that mindset back to his hometown of Detroit in 2011, when he co-founded a charter school called the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. The idea is that it would be a high school that did things in a new way. Instead of just educating the students through high school, they would help them through college, as well.

“From the beginning, we’ve adopted a ‘9 to 16’ educational model, which means we don’t just say ‘good luck and see you later’ when our scholars graduate in 12th grade,” Jalen said. “We stick with them throughout their college years, providing them with the support they need — everything from helping arrange tutors to counseling them on what courses to select. We stick by them, help them get internships, connect them with mentors and other programs. We don’t just want our scholars to attend college; we want them to graduate from college.”

And now that Lansing has started to debate how much students should be worth – how much per-pupil funding they should receive, whatever type of school they attend – Jalen has a clear message. It’s the same message he delivered in 2020 when the Michigan Civil Rights Commission proposed cutting funding for charter school students.

His message for the decision-makers in Lansing: Don’t short-change charter school students.

“I know my scholars aren’t worth less than anyone,” he said. “They have the same right to a great education as any child, and we need to treat them that way. The same is true of every single charter school student in the state.”

“Many of our scholars have lived in extreme poverty their entire lives. They’ve been held back at every turn. They’ve faced the kind of discrimination that most people can’t imagine.

The school’s four core values are family, respect, excellence and determination, and we live those values every day.”

Twelve years after opening their doors, the proof is in the pudding for the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. A recent report showed that JRLA ranks No. 3 in the city among all open-enrollment high schools when it comes to enrolling its graduates in college. The school was only one of three high schools in Detroit that sent more than half its 2021 graduates to college.


Jalen took to social media in December to talk about the progress they’ve made in 12 years – and how proud he is of their students and staff.

“We had a 9-through-16 model,” he said. “We’re an open-enrollment, tuition-free public charter. We get no state funding for our facility. We don’t test students in, we don’t test students out. I am committed, just like our scholars, to make sure their dreams take place.”

And that only happen, he said, if those who control the budget in Lansing continue to value charter school students – like his scholars – fairly and equitably.

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