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Fixing Detroit's schools will take "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars"

Feb 16, 2016

The clock is ticking, and Detroit’s Public Schools is edging closer toward bankruptcy. The district could run out of money as soon as April, due to $515 million of crushing debt.

Governor Rick Snyder made the Detroit Public Schools a key part of his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. State lawmakers have begun acting on measures to help put some kind of rescue plan in motion, but nothing has been cleared and sent to the governor’s desk.

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Chastity Pratt Dawsey is an education reporter for Bridge Magazine. When it comes to overhauling Detroit’s schools, she tells us “we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

As it stands, Dawsey tells us the state is still considering breaking DPS into two distinct entities as a means to address the district’s debt. One would hold onto the debt and pay it down, while the other would continue to educate students as the Detroit Community School District.

The state is also looking at establishing the Detroit Education Commission, which Dawsey explains would “almost re-centralize Detroit schools,” placing all charter, reform and public schools in Detroit under the same educational authority. She says there’s some back and forth about whether to follow through, and that the plan doesn’t have much support in Lansing “because the charter schools don’t like it.”

Amidst all the moving parts, Dawsey tells us there does seem to be a growing realization in the Legislature that time is running out, and something needs to be done soon.

“They are going to run out of money in April, you cannot get away from that fact,” she says. “Now people in Lansing are starting to say, 'you know what, the state does have to do something.' So there’s the common ground, finally, years down the road, here we are. The state has to do something about this debt.”

Dawsey tells us that Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, is working on a piece of legislation that suggests the state should use tobacco settlement money to help Detroit’s schools get back on their feet, something the governor spoke about in his budget message last week.

“Essentially, $720 million over the next 10 years would come out of the tobacco settlement money and go to pay Detroit Public Schools’ year to year payments on their debt,” she says.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey gives us more of the latest on Detroit Public Schools in our conversation above.