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Lawmakers want more action on school accountability in Detroit

Nov 30, 2017

Dr. Nikolai Vitti testified before the House Education Reform Committee
Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers grilled Detroit’s school superintendent for not moving faster to implement new policies to grading school performance and merit pay for teachers.

Dr. Nikolai Vitti told the House Education Reform Committee he’s had other priorities, as he tries to fix the problem-plagued district.  

During one exchange, Vitti responded to Saginaw lawmaker Tim Kelly, who pressed Vitti on why Detroit has not moved faster on accountability standards.

“Detroit alone cannot create a school accountability system,” Vitti told the lawmakers. “That needs to be shared by the state.”

“We’re a nation of laws, you either abide by them or there are consequences,” says Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw)
Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio

“Well that’s not what the law says,” says Kelly.

Detroit’s school district has nearly a year to implement its own school grading system. 

Kelly says state lawmakers may act early next year to create an ‘A to F’ grading system for Michigan schools.  The recent approval of Michigan’s plan to implement the federal 'Every Student Succeeds Act' (ESSA) may speed that process. 

Detroit’s school district has nearly a year to implement its own school grading system.     

Republicans on the committee also demanded to know why Vitti hasn’t act to implement merit pay for high performing teachers.

“That’s how you’re going to incentivize good teachers.  That’s how you’re going to get teachers to come into Detroit, “ says Rep. Daniela Garcia. “That not being a priority right now is disenchanting.”

“When you’re sitting at 450 vacancies, that’s the priority,” Vitti testified. 

Vitti says he’s not opposed to merit pay, but he adds that’s something that will need the support of the Detroit teachers’ union.

After the committee meeting, Kelly expressed frustration with Vitti not moving faster to act on accountability laws.

“We’re a nation of laws, you either abide by them or there are consequences,” says Kelly, though he declined to speculate what those consequences may be.

There are approximately 50,000 students in Michigan’s largest school district.