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Coalition: Put control of DPS back in the hands of Detroiters

Mar 31, 2015

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children. The coalition yesterday released its recommendations for improving Detroit schools.
Credit Rebecca Kruth

A coalition of business and community leaders yesterday released their recommendations for improving Detroit’s struggling school district.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren said control over Detroit Public Schools needs to go back in the hands the school board and out from under emergency management.

Angela Reyes, one of the coalition’s five co-chairs, says it’s time to give control of Detroit schools “back to Detroiters.”

“Emergency Management has proven to be a failure in Detroit,” Reyes said. “The state, as set out in state law, needs to responsibly transition control of DPS back to an elected board.”

The coalition is also calling on the State of Michigan to take on the district’s debt, which they say was accumulated while DPS was under state control.

John Rakolta Jr. is one of the coalition’s five co-chairs. He said the state is “contractually-bound” to the debt.

“It’s unfair for the students to bear this responsibility,” Rakolta said. “How are we ever going to prepare them for 21st century jobs that require incredible skills if $1200 is taken out of their education just to pay the debt back every single year?”

Other recommendations included the state allocating funding based on student need and creating a new nonpartisan entity, the Detroit Education Commission.

Coalition co-chair David Hecker said the Commission would help stabilize the district.

“[The Detroit Education Commission] will ensure that we have a coordinated system of schools that adhere to the same standards, benefit from shared services, and compete on a level playing field.”

The group said the new entity would be appointed by the mayor.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, in a Tuesday press release, called the coalition’s report “excellent” and said their recommendations should be given “serious consideration.”

The mayor said he supports a mayor-appointed education commission but agrees operational control of schools needs to be with DPS and the city’s charter schools.

“The Mayor’s office should play an important role in encouraging quality schools, but we cannot operate the schools,” Duggan said.

Governor Rick Snyder said he respected the work the coalition put into the report and plans to “thoroughly review” the recommendations.

The coalition said they made the recommendations after several months of consulting with experts to better understand the problems facing Detroit's schools. They also met with teachers, parents and students.

Co-chair Tonya Allen said the district's students are not the problem.

"[The students] know that they have great potential, and that we're summing up them as 'broken children'," she said. "In actuality, it's a broken system."