The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager has laid out a plan he says should get the district on a “sustainable path” by the end of his 18-month term.
Darnell Earley’s restructuring plan has some short-term specifics, such as convening a summit of Detroit’s “education service providers” to discuss putting a moratorium on creating new schools before fall 2015; identifying further potential school and “substandard facility” closures; and establishing a task force to deal with the district’s high population of special education students.
The plan is vaguer about long-term strategies, though Earley says he’s confident the district can still “manage its way out” of its fiscal and academic troubles. “But it’s going to take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people,” he said.
Earley said he plans to work closely with the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group currently putting together recommendations to overhaul how all Detroit schools, including charters and those in the state-run Education Achievement Authority, are run. Their report is due at the end of March, and is likely to shape Gov. Snyder’s larger education reform efforts in the city.
Earley said he’ll continue to work with the state and other “education stakeholders” to put DPS on a sustainable path by the time he leaves—saying his goal is to be the district’s final emergency manager.
Earley is the fourth DPS EM in a little under six years. Despite that—and repeated school closings and other cutbacks during that time--he acknowledged that the district’s costs have outpaced revenues every year.
DPS’ current budget deficit stands at around $170 million. But Earley says the district’s “most burdensome problem” is its debt load, pegged in a recent report at more than $2 billion in long-term obligations.
Earley’s plan calls for the district to look at ways to restructure those obligations—but to do so, it will need help from Lansing.