detroit public schools

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.
DPS

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.

Snyder endorsed the report from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget indicating a notable decrease in unemployment in Michigan over the past month.
gophouse.com

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.

MDE

Detroit Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski (say "stroh-dow-ski") wants you to know that administrators get it: Nobody likes closing schools. 

"We look at a school as the anchor or the center of a  neighborhood. And for us to take it away could do some serious damage, and we don't want to do that," she says.

But they do have a $120 million deficit this year.

The Detroit Public Schools is hiring new teachers for the upcoming school year.

The district is hosting a teacher recruitment fair Wednesday at Renaissance High School.

The district is looking to fill 300 to 400 positions, says DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski.

In its ongoing effort to cut costs, the district is offering more generous buyouts to some of its more highly-paid teachers.

The return of Artpod!

Apr 22, 2014
Dave Trumpie

It's been a long, stupidly cold and soul-killing winter. 

Few people know that Artpod cannot survive until we've had at least three days above 70 degrees.

So it's only now that Artpod can emerge from hibernation,  much the way men's feet are unfortunately baring themselves to the world in flip flops again.  

Matthileo / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the top political headlines of the week. This week's topic include:

  • Proposals to boost school funding.
  • Drama over Michigan's restrictions on how ballot campaigns can collect signatures.
  • How a bankruptcy plan for Detroit might come as early as next week.
  • How Detroit Public Schools have lost a collective 160 days from power outages.

Listen to the full interview below

The long road ahead for Detroit education reform

Feb 3, 2014
Brian Widdis

Benchmark: Schools

Ana Rosa Cabrera joined several moms in a classroom at Bennett Elementary for a Zumba session one morning earlier this month. The moms stretched and danced as their instructor, a Spanish-speaking ball of energy dressed in fluorescent greens, directed them in merengue-like maneuvers from a DVD playing on a TV screen.

user Penywise / morguefile

This Week in Michigan Politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss Mark Schauer’s proposal to raise the minimum wage, the political drama over issue ads, and the state of Detroit Public Schools.

There was a little bit of good news about Detroit’s public schools this week, perhaps the first good news in a long time. The Michigan Department of Education is formally taking the school district off so-called “high-risk” list. This means, essentially, that the state will no longer have to approve virtually everything the system does. It also means the system won’t have to put purchases over $25,000 out for bid.

But I think too much is being made of this. Yes, it is a good thing. We should think of this, however, more as if Detroit Public Schools were a patient in the hospital. Their condition has just been upgraded, but only from extremely critical to critical.

After five years, the Detroit Public Schools has been removed from “high-risk status.”

The Michigan Department of Education gave Detroit federal high-risk status in 2008, after a federal audit revealed some serious financial discrepancies amounting to about $53 million.

But the state says the district has put enough safeguards in place now to relax its monitoring.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools will start issuing “child safety ID cards” in some elementary schools.

The ID card will contain a child’s picture, fingerprint, and other identifying information. Participation is voluntary.

District officials say the cards could help find and identify missing children more quickly.

The district will give one card to parents, and keep the information on file. They say the district will only share the card’s information with law enforcement in the event of an emergency.

From the John and Leni Sinclair papers / UM Bentley Historical Library

Next week, Sarah Alvarez from our State of Opportunity team will explore the long shadow of a busing and integration case 40 years ago, and the way the outcome fundamentally altered the notion of a neighborhood school for students in Detroit and many communities throughout the metro area.

Check out this post by Kimberly Springer that shows how some Detroit parents were notified that their kids were going to be bused to another school.

The series “Abandoning the neighborhood school” will focus on these topics:

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools is reporting a 14 percent increase in enrollment for students in grades 9-12. Overall enrollment is still down by two percent, but that's a smaller decrease than previous years.

According to numbers collected by the district on count day, nine of DPS's 19  high schools saw an increase in students.

DPS launched an enrollment campaign over the summer in an effort to meet projections included in the district's budget. Despite enrollment increases in some high schools, DPS still didn't meet those goals.

Classroom
User Motown31 / Creative Commons

Tomorrow is count day for Michigan's public schools.

The more students a school has in attendance on count day, the more money they get from the state.

It's a make or break day for Detroit Public Schools.

After months of sales pitches, finding out how many students enrolled

The district has spent months trying to recruit kids away from charter schools and private academies.

The Detroit Public Schools is tightening up its district-wide attendance policy this school year.

The policy is centered around what the district calls a “3-6-9 approach

Superintendent of academics Karen Ridgeway says the idea is pretty simple.

“There’s a reason for absences. Our whole initiative around 3-6-9 is to find out what that reason is, and to deal with that reason.”

Ridgeway says interventions begin when a child has a third unexcused absence from school.

user kconnors / morgueFile

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit schools are stepping up efforts to improve attendance, including working with prosecutors on cases involving students with many unexcused absences.

The Detroit Public Schools district announced the policy Friday.

The district says that three times of arriving more than 15 minutes after the start of class will equal one unexcused absence. After three unexcused absences, a phone call will be made to the student's home and an attendance agent will be notified.

With the sixth unexcused absence, the student will be referred to an attendance agent and intervention may include home visits by the state Department of Human Services. More than nine per school year will bring a truancy referral to Wayne County prosecutors.

In Michigan, parents can face fines or jail time if children don't go to school.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

 This week, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the Detroit Public Schools student quota, Washtenaw County’s identification card plan that includes undocumented immigrants, and the continuing campaigns of Detroit mayoral candidates Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan.

Detroit Public Schools trying to meet enrollment goal

The Detroit Public School district is depending on enrolling 5,000 more students for the 2013-2014 school year.  If the district doesn’t meet its goal, they will lose millions of dollars in funding from the per-pupil-allowance from the state.  Jack Lessenberry says that Detroit used to enroll almost 200,000 students thirteen years ago.  They now only enroll 46,000.  Lessenberry says “they’ve been going door-to-door trying various gimmicks, of course those are sort of dubious too, to get kids to come back.  But it’s all about how many bodies they have in seats on Count Day.”

Classroom
User Motown31 / Creative Commons

The clock’s running out for the Detroit Public School district.

School starts Tuesday, and DPS officials went into the summer with the hefty goal of recruiting 5,000 new students.

That's an awful lot of new kids, especially given that demographers predict just the opposite. They think DPS will lose students this year, like they have in the past.

It's an important goal for DPS, because even if they have the same number of students as last year, they’ll have to cut $38 million from the budget. 

user BES Photos / Flickr

That's the question raised in a guest column in Bridge Magazine by my next guest.

Margaret Trimer Hartley is superintendent of the University Prep Science & Math Academy in Detroit . She's also the former head of communications for the Michigan Education Association. She was also an education reporter at the Detroit Free Press.

Hartley joined us today.

Listen to the audio above.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Governor Snyder pushes to expedite Medicaid expansion

A bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan passed the state Senate by a narrow vote earlier this week. But a vote to make those changes by January 1, 2014 failed.  This means that thousands of people will have to wait until spring to receive health coverage.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports that Governor Rick Snyder hopes the Senate will revisit the issue as soon as Tuesday.

Deadline approaches for Detroit Public Schools recruitment

As the school year quickly approaches, Detroit Public Schools are running out of time to recruit new students.  Michigan Radio’s Kate Wells reports that the district’s summer goal was to gain 5,000 new students. If DPS does not meet this goal it may lose millions, resulting in possible layoffs and program cuts.  The district is currently retaining 93% of their students.

Detroit mayoral candidates continue campaign

Detroit mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon are continuing their campaigns while primary election drama settles out.  Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek  reports  that both candidates “are trying to position themselves as champions of Detroit neighborhoods.” Duggan is rolling out a neighborhood plan to reduce blight, while Napoleon is accusing him of being tied to “downtown corporate interests.”

Thornberg Investment Management

The opportunity to buy bonds from a troubled school district run by an emergency manager, in a city that's just filed for bankruptcy, may seem akin to the opportunity to get your hands on some great snake oil, or a big lot in a Florida swamp, cheap.

But one municipal bond portfolio manager thinks Detroit Public Schools' bond offering, expected tomorrow, could actually be a good deal.

"There's an extraordinary amount of interest in buying short maturity bonds with high yield," says Josh Gonze of Thornberg Investment Management based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager was out knocking on doors Friday.

Jack Martin canvassed the neighborhood near Thurgood Marshall elementary school—his own alma mater--in an ongoing effort to boost the district’s enrollment.

Martin says the only way to “sustain” the district—still burdened with a $76 million deficit after more than 5 years of emergency financial managers-- is to lure more Detroit students back to traditional public schools.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

City of Flint to recover tax money

The city of Flint has found a new source of income in the effort to balance the budget. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that around six thousand Flint residents paid their federal income taxes, but did not pay city income taxes. This may allow the Flint to collect around a million dollars in back taxes.

Michigan ACLU sues Ann Arbor Public Schools

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools because of its intent to charge tuition for a seventh class.  With the current plan, Ann Arbor high school students must pay $100 for a seventh-period elective class.  Kary Moss of the ACLU says “it creates a two-tiered system of education. Not only for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, but many other students won't be able to afford the seventh hour."

Detroit Schools get annual report card

Excellent Schools Detroit has released its annual report card for the school system.  Out of more than two hundred schools, twenty-five percent scored a C+ or better.  Many of these higher-ranked schools are new and “fresh-start” schools, which has officials optimistic about the future of the district.

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