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Governor Proposes New Approach to Detroit Public Schools

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, May 6, 2015

Last week, the Governor unveiled his plan to address the education and finance issues in Detroit. Under the Governor’s plan a new school district, the City of Detroit Education District, would be established to oversee the education of students and operations of buildings. The current Detroit Public Schools would continue to exist only to pay down debt; everything else would be transferred to the new district.

The plan would establish a financial review commission that would have oversight of the Detroit Public Schools' finances. The current elected school board and emergency manager would be under this commission. It would exist until all debt is paid off. The Governor looks to pay off the debt by using the 18 mils exclusively. This totals about $72 million a year. The state would then have to make up that $72 million annually in per pupil funding for the new district. Once the debt is paid off in an estimated seven to nine years, DPS would cease to exist.

On the other side is the Detroit Education Commission, a public entity made up of five members that would be appointed by the Governor and the Mayor of Detroit. Over the course of six years, those appointed members would be replaced by elected members. This commission would be responsible for hiring a Detroit Education Manager who would oversee all traditional and charter public schools in the city. The manager would be responsible for reviewing performance and determining timelines for poorly performing schools to improve or be closed.

One of the first concerns raised is the effect this plan would have on the rest of the districts in the state. If the $72 million a year that Detroit raises in local taxes is replaced by state school aid funds, it could cost every district about $50/student.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren also released a report on what they recommend to improve Detroit Schools. The Governor said he incorporated some of their ideas into his report but that others couldn’t be done legislatively.

Legislation has not yet been drafted on the plan but the Governor is urging passage by the end of this year so that it could take effect for the 2016-2017 school year. This is obviously an issue we will be engaged in and looking for your input both to MASB and to your lawmakers.

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