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Detroit, DPS reach deal to fix school buildings, as district's future remains in doubt

Feb 19, 2016

Credit Detroit Federation of Teachers

The city of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools have signed a consent agreement.

It lays out timetables for fixing health and safety violations in some school buildings.

The agreement covers 26 schools right now. More schools could be added as city school inspections continue.

The agreement generally gives the district 30 days from the date of inspection to make repairs, sometimes less if there are health hazards.

However, the deal also lengthens the timeline for some expensive repairs that require specialized contractors.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says DPS officials are “well aware” that the city will go to court if the district doesn’t follow through.

“But I have to say I’m encouraged so far,” Duggan said. “I’m encouraged by the fact that we’re getting a consent agreement signed. We’re going to have an enforceable legal document. And I think it’s headed in the right direction as far as the building repairs.”

Duggan is less upbeat when it comes to the district’s rapidly-crumbling financial condition, though.

Things are getting complicated in Lansing when it comes to DPS. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have introduced different plans for the district, which is rapidly going broke.

Duggan is talking with lawmakers, but says at this point there are so many competing plans he’s just sticking with “our principles.”

“The state ran up the [district’s] debt, the state has to pay the debt, we need to return control to the local school board, and Detroit needs to have local control on standards that apply to all public and charter schools equally,” Duggan said.

Duggan favors a Detroit Education Commission that would set standards for both traditional and charter schools. Right now, neither the House nor Senate bills contain any mechanism for charter oversight.

Duggan generally declined to talk specifics of the competing bills, though he did call aspects of the House legislation, such as limiting teachers’ collective bargaining rights, “not helpful.”