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Michigan Radio/PSC poll finds no strong support for Snyder's DPS funding plan

May 27, 2015

From left to right: DPS emergency manager Darnell Earley, Gov. Snyder, and outgoing DPS EM Jack Martin at a press event announcing Earley's appointment as DPS EM.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Voters believe providing education for Detroit students is the state's duty, but don't think Governor Snyder's recent proposal is the way to do it, according a recent poll conducted by Public Sector Consultants and Michigan Radio.

Of the 600 likely voters polled, 82% agreed the state has an obligation to provide a quality education to all kids in Detroit, but answers varied when it came down to how to fund that education. 

DPS is currently deep in debt, but more than half of those polled, around 64%, said "no" when asked if the state should assist the school system by paying off its debt.

"That's not surprising given it may smack of bailout to some of the voters," said PSC CEO, Jeff Williams.  "It's a special treatment for a district." 

Williams said since it was expected that most voters would oppose paying off DPS' debt, they asked specific follow-up questions to the 166 people who responded that the state should help pay off DPS debt.

One of those follow-ups asked about Gov. Snyder's proposal to provide $483 million in debt relief to DPS. His proposal would do so by pulling funds from other schools across the state -- an annual $50 per non-Detroit student for several years. 

When faced with the specifics of Snyder's plan, some of the respondents changed their minds. Of the 166 people who originally answered "yes," 43% supported Snyder's plan, and 43% were against it.

"It means this proposal, as we know, has a long road ahead of it," Williams said. "When I can peel away half of your yes-voters just by being a little more specific that tells you how much work you have to do."

Other findings

The poll also asked respondents about other public education topics:

  • It found that voters favor local administration of schools as opposed to the emergency manager system that has been in place in DPS since 2009. A  majority of respondents agreed that a school board was best equipped to run DPS, with 35% saying that the mayor and governor should appoint board members and 27% saying members should be locally elected.
  • The survey also asked about voters' thoughts on charter schools, finding that there was no strong opinion. When charter schools performed well, residents favored them, when they performed poorly, they didn't, and Williams said that's exactly how people respond when asked about traditional public schools.

See the full results of the survey below. (If the graphs below don't load for you, click here.)