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detroit public schools

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents say they’re angry about conditions in the city’s schools — and ready to do something about it.

Dozens of them packed a meeting led by the Detroit Parent Network Thursday night.

Over the past few weeks, Detroit Public Schools have been facing sick-outs from teachers protesting school conditions, pay, and Governor Snyder’s proposed plan to address the district’s massive debt.

I spoke to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants about the situation at DPS and whether there is a clear path forward.

Mayor Mike Duggan toured some Detroit schools and says the conditions are a mixed bag.

Bills to restructure Detroit K-12 finally proposed

Jan 14, 2016
Empty classroom
flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Legislation to overhaul Detroit's troubled school district has finally been introduced, more than eight months after Gov. Rick Snyder first proposed the restructuring.

Empty classroom
flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A coalition of business and community leaders continues to push for reform and repair of Detroit's education system.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children's co-chairs held a press conference today to discuss the current state of the Detroit education landscape, and to renew a call for action to lawmakers.

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

 

State schools superintendent Brian Whiston says he has set up a meeting for this Friday in Detroit with Darnell Earley, the state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools.

Whiston said the point of the meeting is to discuss concerns he's heard from the Detroit teachers' union about health and safety conditions in school buildings.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about the Flint water crisis: how Flint is getting help at the federal level, when Governor Snyder first knew about the water problem and how this crisis has hurt him politically. Lessenberry also talks about why teachers at the Detroit Public Schools are protesting many issues by staging "sickouts."


Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Rick Snyder is adding his voice to those calling for an end to teacher “sickout” protests in the state’s largest school district.

Dozens of Detroit public school buildings have closed this week with teachers staying home, and several more have been forced to close in recent weeks.

Snyder hopes teachers will find other ways to protest state control of Michigan’s largest district, health and safety issues in classrooms, and other problems. He says there are other avenues to call attention to those issues that don’t hurt students.

Well, the governor is finally paying attention to the water scandal in Flint, and there seems to be general recognition that the state really screwed up. Even Rick Snyder said as much yesterday, though in convoluted language.

Children were poisoned because of actions taken by state government, and finally, belatedly, there’s an effort to do something about it.

But children are being irreversibly harmed in Detroit, too, and we’re not willing to do anything about it. I’m talking about the more than forty thousand kids who are still enrolled in the Detroit Public Schools. This time, this is not the governor’s fault.

Detroit Federation of Teachers

The Detroit Federation of Teachers spoke out Monday about what union officials called “third world” conditions in some Detroit Public Schools buildings.

The DFT has largely stood on the sidelines while its members have staged escalating “sickout” protests in recent weeks. More than 60 Detroit schools were closed Monday.

But the DFT is now denouncing what it calls “toxic” conditions in many Detroit schools.

Those range from health hazards—including black mold and rodent problems--to oversized classes and a lack of supplies.

Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Republican state lawmakers are looking into legislation meant to prevent teacher “sickouts” like the ones that closed about 60 Detroit schools on Monday.

Teachers in the state’s largest district say it’s their only way to protest problems in the district – from state control to overcrowded classrooms – because teacher strikes are banned under state law.

“I couldn’t be any more disappointed,” said state Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Twp., who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

Empty classroom
flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

At least 50 Detroit schools are closed because teachers are absent, a protest that began last week over pay and general turmoil in the district.

The district posted the schools on its Facebook page Monday.

Former union president Steve Conn calls it a "continuation of the rolling strikes."

School officials warned families Sunday that "ongoing sick-outs" by teachers could keep kids at home.

DPS

Michigan’s education chief is urging teachers in the state’s largest district to end a recent series of “sickout” protests.

A number of Detroit Public School buildings have been forced to close in recent weeks due to the protests.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston says the sickouts are unfair to students.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Two more Detroit Public Schools were closed for teacher “sickouts” on Thursday.

This time, it was Detroit’s Renaissance and Martin Luther King high schools.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A new report lays out the stark reality of how the Detroit Public Schools is rapidly sinking under its debt burden.

The report from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan also details how the district accumulated its $3.5 billion debt load by mid-2015.

Almost $1.9 billion of that is “operational” debt – meaning it’s paid off by money that could otherwise be used in the classroom and for other day-to-day district expenses.

Detroit Public Schools

One of Detroit’s top public schools was closed Tuesday, after too many teachers called in sick.

It’s just the latest in a string of “sickout” protests at Detroit Public Schools.

Teachers at Cass Technical High School say they staged the sickout because it’s the only form of protest they have in the district, which is run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

Cass Tech English teacher Dorothea Williams-Arnold says they’re protesting huge class sizes, stagnant pay, and skyrocketing health insurance costs, among other things.

Empty classroom
flickr user Motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Public schools in Detroit are looking at a rough year ahead.

Debt payments for Detroit Public Schools are already the highest of any school district in the state, but things are going to get even more dire next month.

Chad Livengood of The Detroit News' Lansing Bureau tells us that DPS will owe $26 million every month through 2016 to pay back this year’s operating debts, as well as debts carried over from previous years.

Dan Varner
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Next Idea

Many of Detroit’s potential workers are leaving school without the math or reading skills required to enter training programs.

There doesn’t seems to be a clear plan for educating Detroit’s children. There doesn’t seem to be a clear plan for training a future workforce.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says lawmakers could first tackle the Detroit school district's debt and possibly leave until later his call for a new commission to close poor-performing traditional and charter schools.

  The Republican governor told The Associated Press in a year-end interview that pending legislation to split the district in two to retire debt and to empower a chief education officer to hold schools accountable could go on "parallel or somewhat separate tracks." Snyder says the more urgent issue in terms of timing is the state-run district's finances.

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

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s slowing down his plans to fix Detroit’s schools in order to get the process moving. In the face of resistance from Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature, the governor says he wants to break up the work, focusing first on retiring the district’s massive debt.

Legislative successes and failures in 2015

Dec 17, 2015
user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the Michigan Legislature wraps up for the year we wanted to take a look back at 2015 with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Sikkema and Demas agree that the list of legislative successes is short this year. Sikkema says:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Seven Detroit Public Schools closed Thursday when too many teachers called in sick.

The “sick-out” is mostly a protest against Governor Snyder’s plans for the troubled district, which he wants to split in two and put through a bankruptcy-like overhaul.

Detroit’s Public Schools are slowly dying. Those who run them would not use those words, but that’s what is happening. The schools have lost sixty-five percent of their students in the last ten years, and have closed more than three-fifths of their buildings.

There’s some evidence of better management in the last year. Enrollment may have temporarily stabilized. The schools have shed some of the top-heavy central office bureaucracy that for years drained resources and messed with education.

Lawmakers are continuing their autumn recess, but they’ll soon be back in Lansing to focus on Governor Rick Snyder’s plan for Detroit schools.

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

Some local school officials in Michigan would be OK with tapping the state’s School Aid Fund to help Detroit Public Schools pay down debt. That’s if they get some assurances.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal would tap the state’s School Aid Fund to pay for the measure. School leaders outside Detroit have balked at that idea – saying the plan shouldn’t come at the expense of every other Michigan student.

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
user alkruse24 / Flickr

With the roads funding plan behind them, the Michigan Legislature is on break until December. When they return, fixing Detroit Public Schools will be at the top of the legislative agenda.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a controversial plan for DPS that would start a new district responsible for educational instruction and general operations while leaving the roughly $500 million in legacy debt with the old district.

Math flashcards
Ross Belmont / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Wayne State University is getting a $1.4 million grant to prepare elementary and middle school math teachers to teach in Detroit.

The grant from the National Science Foundation's Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program will help WSU recruit and train 56 new math teachers to teach in Detroit classrooms.

Jake Neher / MPRN

State lawmakers are taking a three-week break for deer hunting and Thanksgiving.

  

And they’ll have a lot of work waiting for them when they return to Lansing.

Detroit schools' budget deficit smaller than expected

Nov 10, 2015
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

A recent audit showed the Detroit Public Schools' deficit for the 2014-15  fiscal year is smaller than originally projected.

DPS officials said they had expected the annual deficit to be in the range of $70 million. But the audit puts it at $46.5 million, more than $22 million less.

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

Now that state lawmakers have cobbled together a roads package, the spotlight can turn to fresh priorities.

For example, fixing Detroit’s collapsing school system.

The governor estimates it will take more than $700 million to rehabilitate Detroit’s public schools and warns that if the state doesn’t tackle the mammoth school debt, things will only get worse.

Matthileo / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Several hundred demonstrators chanted “enough is enough” at a state Capitol rally opposing Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed reorganization of the Detroit Public Schools.

  

The rally was organized by the teachers union, which brought in members by the busload to protest and to lobby state lawmakers.

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