detroit public schools

Virtually everyone who doesn’t have a political reason to pretend otherwise would agree that the Detroit public schools are a dreadful failure.

More than three-quarters of its students have fled the district in the last 14 years. Test scores remain appallingly low, and a succession of emergency managers has failed to stabilize the finances. Most children in the district now go to charters, private schools or schools in the suburbs, a clear vote of no confidence by Detroit parents.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is still getting public and expert input, even as its deadline approaches.

The group is coming up with recommendations to overhaul and streamline Detroit’s multiple school systems. They face a March 31 deadline to submit recommendations to Governor Snyder.

This past weekend, the coalition held several workshops to hear from Detroit children.

via Detroit Public Schools

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.

One of Gov. Snyder’s top education advisors made a rare public appearance at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s yearly Detroit Policy Conference Thursday.

Paul Pastorek has been working behind the scenes in Lansing for months.

According to the Governor’s office, he’s an “at-will consultant" helping design a major overhaul for Detroit’s struggling, fragmented education system.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Monster trucks may be an incentive for thousands of Detroit Public School students to get to class next Wednesday. 

Every one of the district’s 47,000 Students will receive two tickets to an upcoming monster truck show at Ford Field.

DPS spokesman Steve Wasko says the ticket giveaway is a sign of support in the community for Detroit schools.

Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren / via Facebook

Over the past two decades, nearly everything about going to school in Detroit has changed.

School choice has meant an explosion of charters in and around the city. Now, more Detroit kids attend charters than traditional public schools.

As for Detroit Public Schools, the district has been under some kind of state control for 12 out of the past 15 years.

Despite these changes, most people feel like the schools situation in the city has gotten worse, not better.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The new Detroit Federation of Teachers’ President says it’s time for the union to “draw a line in the sand.”

Steve Conn was just elected to lead the union of nearly 4,000 Detroit Public Schools teachers.

He took the oath of office Tuesday, vowing to take a hard line against Gov. Snyder, the district’s new emergency manager, Darnell Earley — and the years of state-led intervention Conn says have devastated the district.

Reporters getting a closer look at the Chevy Bolt concept.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

This week, Jack and Emily discuss Detroit schools’ new emergency manager, Dave Agema’s latest controversy and the North American International Auto Show.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is moving into a new role: as emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.

Gov. Snyder named Darnell Earley as the school district’s fourth consecutive emergency manager on Tuesday.

User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Governor Snyder has chosen Darnell Earley, Flint's current emergency manager, to replace Jack Martin as Detroit Public School's emergency manager.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, who covers education issues for Bridge Magazine, talked to us about what this means for DPS.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This is a crucial week for the future of the Detroit Public Schools—and possibly holds a key test for Michigan’s emergency manager law, too.

The school district’s third emergency manager, Jack Martin, is expected to leave this week, after serving in that post for 18 months.

Under Michigan’s revised emergency manager law, elected officials—in this case, the Detroit Board of Education—can remove an emergency manager after that period of time by a 2/3 vote. The board has indicated they intend to do just that.

The Detroit Public Schools has laid out new plans to erase its red ink.

The district’s revised deficit elimination plan still awaits state approval. But if approved, it would result in a small surplus by 2023, says district spokesman Steve Wasko.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michigan school districts are dealing with a deficit. 

The numbers comes from a quarterly report filed by the State Superintendent’s office with the state legislature.

Fifty five school districts are now required to file deficit elimination plans with the state. That’s up from 48 last year. 

user MoBikeFed / flickr

Criminal incidents are on the decline in the Detroit Public Schools, according to new data from school officials.

“Serious incidents” such as assault and weapons possession dropped from 456 in the first three months of last school year, to 343 during the same time frame this year—a nearly 25% decline.

“It’s a larger ongoing trend,” said DPS police chief Stacy Brackens. “We’ve had a downward trend since 2010.”

Skillman Foundation

Locally-generated solutions should drive any effort to fix Detroit schools.

That’s the message coming from the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, a group that formed just this week.

It’s an unusually broad group that includes community, business, union, and education leaders working in the city.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

DETROIT- Two Michigan school districts have each received nearly $100,000 in federal grants to bring locally grown food to school cafeterias.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the grants to Detroit Public Schools and the Waterford School District on Tuesday. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Three of the five school districts that face more scrutiny from Michigan’s Department of Treasury have reduced their general fund deficits last school year. That’s according to independent audits recently filed to the state. But some still face serious, ongoing problems. Here’s a breakdown of how the districts ended the 2013-14 school year.

Enrollment in the Detroit Public Schools is down slightly from last year—but the district is calling that a victory after years of double-digit enrollment declines.

According to unofficial data released Tuesday, the district counts 47,238 students across its 97 schools.

That’s down 3.4% from the prior year. But district spokesman Steve Wasko said it beat the district’s own budget targets, as well as demographer’s projections.

Detroit Public Schools

Detroit’s elected school board has lost its bid to oust the district’s emergency manager immediately.

Board members voted to get rid of Jack Martin this week.

And they sued to enforce that, citing a portion of state law that allows elected officials to remove emergency managers after 18 months.

Martin hasn’t yet been in office for 18 months, but the Detroit Public Schools have been under some form of emergency manager for years.

The question is whether that 18-month limit applies to all emergency managers, or just individual appointees.

Detroit Public Schools

Detroit City Council recently voted to strip Kevyn Orr of most of his powers as the city's emergency manager. Now, the Detroit Public School Board is hoping to oust their emergency manager as well.

Under Michigan's current emergency manager law, local officials can vote to strip EMs of their power with a two-thirds vote after 18 months.

The Detroit school board voted Monday evening with the belief that Jack Martin’s tenure as emergency manager would end this week.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Detroit’s water shutoffs, Detroit Public School’s emergency manager and updates from the campaign trail.

Detroit Public Schools

After a public outcry, the Detroit Public Schools is walking back plans to cut teacher pay and boost class sizes.

The district is battling a $127 million deficit, and the Michigan Department of Education approved its revised deficit elimination plan last week.

It called for cutting teachers’ pay by 10% (on top of another 10% pay cut imposed in 2011), and putting up to 43 students in some classrooms.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A state emergency loan board  agreed to lend the Detroit Public Schools $111 million to make up for a funding shortfall, on the same day state schools superintendent Mike Flanagan approved the district's new deficit elimination plan.

The state expects to lend about 200 school districts money to help them start the school year. That is normal in Michigan, which doesn’t send its first school aid payments until October.

But in Detroit, the process has pitted the school board in the state’s largest district against its emergency manager.

Sharon Drummond / Flickr

A state loan board will choose between two competing proposals to give a short-term bridge loan to the Detroit Public Schools. One is from the district’s emergency manager. The other is an alternative proposed by the school board.

The district is under the control of an emergency manager while it digs out of a deficit. The district’s teachers are opposing a plan to close 24 schools and cut their pay by 10%. This would be the second round of pay cuts for Detroit teachers.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the district’s troubles require tough choices.

Outside Bagley Elementary in Detroit.

Michigan education officials approved a plan by Detroit Public Schools to cut teachers' pay by 10%.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced today that he signed off on the district's five-year deficit elimination plan.

The Detroit Public School district has been in financial trouble for quite some time. DPS currently has a $127 million deficit.

The Detroit News’ Jennifer Chambers reports that school closures are also part of the plan:

The pay cut, which will impact all teachers and administrators starting Oct. 1, came after the district was forced to make budget cuts to offset expected revenues from a failed countywide tax millage. The wage concession for teachers would generate $13.3 million in savings. District wide, the savings will be $21.1 million.

The district’s financial plan also calls for the closure of 24 schools or buildings over four years, starting with the 2015-16 academic year.

In addition to the cuts, Chambers reports the state’s Local Financial Assistance Loan Board approved a plan that will allow DPS to borrow $111 million in state aid notes to pay its bills.

Gov. Rick Snyder

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss possible teacher pay cuts and school closings for Detroit Public Schools, if there will be broadcasted debates with candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate, and what to expect at the Republican and Democratic conventions this weekend.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy.

Mayor Mike Duggan says his top priority is reversing the city’s long population decline.

But there are a couple key quality of life issues Duggan has no control over. One of them is the city’s schools.

Here’s the story of one Detroit family’s effort to find good schools.

Meet the Hills

To the surprise of no one, John Covington resigned abruptly yesterday, with a year left on his expensive contract. He was the controversial head of Detroit’s controversial Education Achievement Authority, usually known as the EAA.

Both Covington and Gov. Rick Snyder insisted he wasn’t fired. This was clearly for appearances sake, and for appearances’ sake, both men are probably lucky they are not Pinocchio.

For the last year, there has been a steady stream of stories about problems with the authority, which was set up to run 15 of Detroit’s worst schools. Most recently, we learned that it has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel, sending administrators and teachers to a lot of expensive conferences.

The Detroit News revealed the authority spent $10,000 on gas for Covington’s chauffeur-driven car, money that could have been spent on teachers, computers and the classroom. So he is gone, and the people I know there won’t miss him.

But this has more importance than the usual story of one free-spending administrator running amok. And that is because Gov. Snyder wants to expand the EAA to at least 50 schools statewide. A bill that would allow that has passed the state House of Representatives, but hasn’t yet made it through the Senate. It should now be clear that they need to go slow.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you are a school district where more than 80% of your students live in poverty, every penny that helps those students is critical.

And that's why there has been a collective gasp of disbelief, even anger, with the news that Detroit Public Schools has lost $4 million in Head Start funding.

The reason DPS lost the money is because they missed the application deadline.

A school spokesperson blamed a technical problem in uploading the application.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joined us on our show.

*Listen to our conversation with Rochelle above.

I woke up this morning feeling sorry for someone I admire, the distinguished and dignified educator Glenda Price, a woman who didn’t even live in Michigan till late middle age, but who has made immense contributions to this community.

Last year, Price gallantly agreed to take on leadership of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, which tries to raise money to help the city’s terribly troubled public schools.

That’s a fairly thankless task, and one that just got a lot harder. We learned this week that thanks to incompetence, laziness, stupidity or most likely all three, the district failed or forgot to apply for federal Head Start funding this year. That is absolutely mind-blowing.

Head Start is perhaps the best anti-poverty program the federal government ever invented. And it is needed in Detroit more than almost anywhere. Almost 80% of Detroit School children live in poverty. They are unlikely to be ready for school. Early intervention is crucial, and Head Start has been vital in giving a boost to hundreds of four-year-olds every year. But not this year.