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detroit public schools

image of new and old DPS
Lauren Crawford / Michigan Radio

Today is the first day of school in Detroit.

Students in the city’s public school system will return to the same buildings and many of the same teachers. But there will be one big difference: These students are the first to attend school in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

The old Detroit Public Schools now exists in name only.

Detroit teachers protesting downtown on May 2, 2016.
Sarah Jardine

Detroit public schoolteachers start the new school year working with an expired contract — and bargaining for a new one.

After this summer’s restructuring, the Detroit Public Schools no longer exists, for practical purposes. Now, former DPS teachers now work for a brand-new entity — the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

And they want a new contract. Their old one was “imposed” on them by former DPS emergency managers, in the union’s view.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schools signaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuit this week.

Drinking water fountain.
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

All 94 school buildings in the Detroit Public Schools Community District meet federal standards for lead in water, the city’s health department announced Monday.

It had spent months screening tap water at all the city’s schools for lead and copper, to make sure they met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“And we’re now confident that children who are drinking water in DPSCD schools are drinking water that’s lead-safe,” says Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, the health department’s director.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

This summer, Detroit Public Schools ceased to exist except on paper.

But there is a new district that has the same schools, teachers and students as the “old” DPS. It’s formally known, at least for now, as the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

Why did this happen? The short story is that the “old” DPS stood on the verge of bankruptcy throughout the last school year. To avoid that, the state — which has controlled Detroit schools for most of the past 17 years — executed a bankruptcy-style restructuring, minus the actual bankruptcy.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou talk about political pushback on Melissa Gilbert's request to get her name off the November ballot and whether enough justice is being done in a $2.7 million school supplies kickback scheme in Detroit.

Lessenberry and Tribou also discuss the latest news from Flint, including the lead crisis and a hometown hero who brought home her gold medal.  


stevendepolo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The architect of a bribery-and-kickback scheme in the Detroit Public Schools deserves to spend almost six years behind bars, at the least.

Or, he’s a “compassionate” and “devoted” person who, “despite his greed-filled actions in latter years, was an honest, upright businessman for the bulk of his career,” and merits leniency.

Those are dueling descriptions of Norman Shy found in sentencing memorandums from both federal prosecutors and Shy’s lawyer.

According to Bowens, the report "does not adequately reflect the realities of today."
morgueFile user kconnors / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Anyone driving between Detroit and Grosse Pointe will be struck by the stark change that happens when you cross the border at Alter Road.

A report from a New Jersey non-profit group has declared that the economic divide between Detroit schools and Grosse Pointe schools is the worst in the nation. 

The report from the group EdBuild says nearly half the households in Detroit's school district live in poverty. In Grosse Pointe, that number is 6.5%. 

It also found that 82% of Detroit's public school students are African-American. In Grosse Pointe schools, it's 16%.

EAA chancellor Veronica Conforme.
via Education Achievement Authority

Does the Education Achievement Authority still owe the Detroit Public Schools about $12 million?

The two districts seem to have distinctly different ideas about that, in what’s become a very odd dispute between the two state-run school districts.

And for now at least, it seems the state is unwilling to step in and help resolve the dispute.

The EAA took over fifteen former DPS schools when it launched as an attempt at a stateside turnaround school district in 2012.

Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: The EAA has released emails that appear to show the state and DPS agreeing to revise payments from the EAA. You can read those emails here.

Yesterday, the governor's office said this debt debate is "really an issue for the EAA and MDE to be responding to," while the Michigan Department of Education declined to comment and referred questions to the Treasury Department. 

stevendepolo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Some Detroit Public Schools debt has been downgraded again — this time, into junk territory.

The credit rating agency S&P Global lowered its rating on two sets of bonds, issued in 2011 and 2012. DPS still owes more than $200 million on them.

S&P says its concerns stems from district’s recent restructuring.

To avoid a potential bankruptcy, the state split DPS in two — with the “old co” existing only to re-pay historic debts with local tax revenues.

Apple with books
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The CEO appointed by the state to take over four low-performing East Detroit schools can start working, but with some limits.

Under an agreement in court Thursday, CEO Gary Jensen can act as a consultant in the district, but he doesn't have authority over decisions on academics, curriculum or finances.

The state's decision to hire a CEO has faced months of backlash from teachers and administrators in East Detroit schools, who say they're already working to turn things around in the struggling district.

wikimedia user motown31 / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A former school supplies vendor who admitted defrauding the Detroit Public Schools will see his major assets seized by the federal government.

Norman Shy pleaded guilty to running a bribery and kickback scheme that defrauded the district of nearly $2.8 million, paying off principals and a district administrator with money he received for school supplies that were never delivered.

Shy’s plea agreement spelled out assets the government could seize to repay that.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

School is out for the summer, but education in Michigan is still making headlines. This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry joins Doug Tribou to talk about opposition to the state's plan to split the Detroit Public Schools into two districts, and a legal battle between East Detroit schools and the State. Lessenberry also shares his thoughts on the first two days of the Republican National Convention.


Allen Academy is unimstakably a former Catholic church.
Allen Academy / via Facebook

How do you decide if a so-called “failing” school should shut down, and is there a right way to do it?

Three Detroit charter schools shut their doors forever at the end of this school year.

One of them, Allen Academy, was one of the city’s very first charters. And its closure leaves a wake of upheaval.

"The kids are going to be better off"

The ornate, red-brick complex on Detroit’s west side is unmistakably an old Catholic church.

The Saint Theresa of Avila parish closed in the 1980s. Since 1999, it’s been Allen Academy.

East Detroit school and community officials blast plans for state CEO takeover.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For the second time, a Macomb County judge has issued a second restraining order to stop a CEO takeover of some East Detroit public schools.

And it’s apparently because of a legal decision made by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

Last month, the state school reform office appointed Gary Jensen as CEO, with a mission to turn around four low-performing East Detroit schools.

Gov. Rick Snyder formed a workgroup that made 69 recommendations on how the state of Michigan should manage and improve its mental health care system. The question is, how many of those recommendations will be turned into actual policies?
gophouse.com

A recent legislative overhaul to Detroit Public Schools is being challenged in court.

Governor Snyder signed bills that split the old school district in two last month, avoiding a potential bankruptcy.

But members of Detroit’s elected school board say there are a number of problems with those bills.

Thomas Bleakley, the board’s attorney, says one problem is the laws are written so that they only apply to Detroit — and the state constitution is clear about the process for passing “local acts.”

cash money
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The powerful credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s has downgraded two sets of bonds issued by Detroit Public Schools.

The agency also expressed doubt about a new arrangement that splits the school district in two.

On Friday, new state laws took effect splitting the Detroit Public Schools into “old” and “new” districts.

The old one exists solely to pay off debt with tax revenues, while the new one receives state aid payments to educate students.

DPS EM Steven Rhodes, center, takes notes at a meeting with Detroit's elected school board.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ board of education met for the final time ever on Thursday.

The board has very little to do now as part of the "old,” debt-ridden DPS.

It will be replaced by a “new” district, run by a “transition manager”—currently the district’s last emergency manager, Judge Steven Rhodes.

Gov. Snyder just signed bills setting up this bankruptcy-style restructuring just last week.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Members of the Detroit Board of Education have voted to reject a set of state-proposed loans to help bail-out the struggling district.

Last week, Governor Snyder signed off on a $617 million package to create a new, debt-free Detroit school system. The two rejected loans are part of the state's bail-out plan and total $385 million.

Board president LaMar Lemmons says the interest rates on the loans are too high.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Backlash against a state takeover of four East Detroit district schools is growing, with a lawsuit moving forward in court and the school board and city of Eastpointe signing a joint resolution against it.

“We’re at a point right now where our schools are under attack by the state, there’s no kinder way to put it,” says school board vice president Craig Brozowski.

The latest re-invention of public schools in Detroit is underway with the state trying yet again to overhaul the district facing huge financial and academic difficulties.

But it’s still too early to declare victory.

This new plan out of Lansing is without the support of legislative Democrats, the Detroit delegation and Mayor Mike Duggan. But it does return the Detroit public schools back to the control of a locally elected school board. This is coming after many state appointed emergency managers over seven years have tried but failed to turn around the district.

DPS emergency manager Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

At a public meeting Thursday, Detroit Public Schools leaders tried to reassure still-nervous teachers and parents there should be a “seamless” transition to a new school district in the city.

Governor Snyder signed bills splitting the old Detroit school district in two this week.

Those bills create an “old” district, which will remain a legal entity solely to pay off existing debts; and a new, yet-to-be-named entity that will take over running schools and educating children.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Does the newly-passed state rescue plan for Detroit's public schools do enough to meet the future needs of the struggling district and its students?

A newly-released study from the non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan points to growing challenges in funding the education of Detroit's kids -- factors the new state plan did not take into account.

Craig Thiel with the CRC joined us today to discuss the findings. 

DPS website

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46,000 students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

A new charter school in Whitmore Lake offers a "classical education" and a Hillsdale College connection
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Most Michigan school districts operating at a deficit are making progress in balancing their budgets, according to the latest quarterly deficit report submitted to the state legislature by the Michigan Department of Education. 

Of the 40 schools that began the 2016 fiscal year with operating deficits, 18 project they'll be deficit-free by the end of June, and another 15 are planning on reducing their deficits by the end of the fiscal year.

Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - To rescue Detroit's school district from potential insolvency, Michigan is turning to a familiar playbook.

  It will shift more than a quarter of the state's $250 million annual payment from tobacco companies to Detroit schools. The move is the latest in a line of tapping the legal settlement when the governor and lawmakers are in a pinch.

  With the latest Detroit bailout, all but $26 million, or about 10 percent, of the yearly tobacco cash is automatically spoken for.

Gary Jensen
State of Michigan

For the first time, Michigan’s State School Reform/Redesign office has appointed a CEO to take over some low-performing schools in one district.

That’s despite an ongoing lawsuit by district officials to stop the state intervention.

Gary Jensen will take control of four “chronically underperforming” East Detroit Public Schools. The district has seven schools altogether.

Jensen was named Michigan’s Principal of the Year in 2014. He’s credited with leading an academic turnaround at Lakeview High School in Montcalm County.

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