detroit public schools

The Detroit Public School system will shrink again next fall, as the district scrambles to revamp itself amidst declining enrollment.

This is just the latest in several waves of restructuring, as the district must constantly re-adjust to a student population that shrinks every year—and has fallen about 60% overall since 2000, from more than 167,000 students to about 69,000.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder has signed legislation he says will let financially-strapped school districts guarantee their bond payments—using state school aid funds.

The legislation applies to all school districts with deficit elimination plans or emergency managers. But it was written with the Detroit Public Schools in mind.

Detroit State Representative Fred Durhal, who sponsored the bill, says the new law should help set bondholders’ minds at ease.

Police officials are picking up kids who are not in school around the Detroit area today.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit Police are teaming up with local school officials and federal officials to make the sweeps

The program was initiated with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by Detroit Police Officer Monica Evans, who was a teacher for 12 years. Detroit Public Schools officials are also participating. The effort stems from a U.S. Justice Department report that found many of the nation's prisoners listed truancy as their first offense. The task force has also organized patrols before and after classes at a number of Detroit schools to help students arrive and depart safely.

The Free Press reports the effort is part of "an ongoing collaborative effort by federal, state and local law enforcement to reduce crime by and against children."

They write the effort first started last year and "netted 63 truant students" during a sweep in April, 2011.

Governor Snyder has appointed a team to review the Muskegon Heights School District's financial records. That puts the west Michigan school district a step closer to getting an emergency manager.

The Muskegon Heights school district asked for a state review of its finances back in December.

The preliminary review found the school district was in ‘probable financial stress’, due to the district’s $8.5 million deficit.

That set the stage for the governor to appoint a state review team to scour the school district’s books. 

If an emergency manager is eventually appointed in Muskegon Heights schools, it will join school districts in Detroit and Highland Park. Emergency managers are also running things in four Michigan cities.

Ford Motor Company

Talking Points Memo, an influential political blog, is estimating that as much as $100 million could be spent on the recall fight involving Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week parents and educators have one last chance to weigh in on the state’s plans for the new Michigan Education Achievement Authority.

The authority is a new school system that’ll try to help turn around the state’s lowest performing schools. Roughly 100 public schools across the state make that list. The system starts in Detroit Public Schools next fall.

Detroit Public Schools

Some Detroit Public Schools are open part-time over the two-week holiday break.

The district’s Holiday Learning Fest program tries to keep kids engaged in fun academic activities. But it also aims to keep them well-fed.

On Thursday, volunteers handed out food baskets to parents as they picked up their kids. Gleaners and the United Way donated the fresh food baskets.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools is trying to make sure students stay up-to-date on their academics over the two-week holiday break.                                                              

The idea behind the Holiday Learning Fest is to keep kids learning part-time over the break.

18 schools have opted to participate in the program. One is Beard Elementary in southwest Detroit, which focuses on young kids from pre-K through first grade.

Teacher Ann Crowley says once her school found out about the program, they clamored to get on board.

frankjuarez / flickr

A political fight in Lansing could mean tens of millions of dollars in un-budgeted borrowing costs for Detroit Public Schools over the next few years.

At issue is legislation that would have allowed the district to make a new deal with creditors. The deal would have given the troubled school system more time to pay off its bonds. But the measures were tabled after Republican and Democratic leaders had a disagreement over an unrelated measure and adjourned for the year. Now officials with the school system will have to come up with the cash more quickly.         

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court plans to hear a case over whether the state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools should be removed from office.

The court announced in an order Wednesday it would hear the case brought by Robert Davis, which was rejected by the state Court of Appeals. It says oral arguments are planned and briefs from those
involved are due within 42 days.

Davis argues that the office of emergency manager should be declared vacant because Roy Roberts didn't immediately take the oath of office earlier this year.

Roberts later took the oath.

The district said in a statement that Roberts "continues to work on the hard daily tasks of strengthening educational opportunities for Detroit students and righting Detroit Public Schools finances."

user steveburt1947 / Flickr

Michigan Radio is giving 2011 a sendoff by taking a look back at some of the year's popular and important stories. As part of this retrospective series, here's a small collection of stories we covered about Detroit. You can also weigh in. Tell us your pick for the most important Detroit story this year (if you want to peruse all the stories we've covered in Detroit, you can find them organized under our Detroit tag):

Leaders of a new statewide school district are looking for citizen input.

The Education Achievement System (EAS) is Governor’s Snyder’s plan to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools. The EAS held input sessions in Detroit and Kalamazoo Monday.

Plans for the EAS have been sketchy so far. It’s set to launch in 2012 with an unspecified number of Detroit Public Schools.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Students in Detroit Public Schools showed slight improvements in the latest round of a benchmark standardized test.

But Detroit students still posted the worst scores of any district in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test.

The NAEP exam tests fourth and eighth-graders in reading and math. When Detroit students took the test for the first time in 2009, they produced the worst scores in the test’s history.

In 2011:

·        Math, 4th grade: proficiency up from 31% to 34%

·        Math, 8th grade: proficiency up from 22% to 29%

·        Reading, 4th grade: proficiency up from 27% to 31%

·        Reading, 8th grade: proficiency up from 41% to 43%

Some experts question whether the posted gains are even statistically significant. But Detroit schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the important thing is a positive trend.

“Detroit had the highest gains of any city in any subject in mathematics,” Roberts says. “Detroit also exceeded the state in gains in reading.”

“Like the budget deficit, it will not be eliminated overnight. But we have demonstrated real progress.”

Roberts says the biggest thing hindering Detroit students’ academic performance has been “instability” in the district.

He says the district will announce in January how many more schools to close, charter, or move to the Education Achievement System, a new statewide district for the lowest-performing schools.

Thirteen years ago, Doug Ross lost Michigan’s Democratic primary for governor -- and that might turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to education in Detroit.

Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager Roy Roberts says the district is making headway on its deficit.

The district ended the 2010 fiscal year more than $327 million in the red. Roberts says the district cut that by more than $40 million the following year.

Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools is releasing a half-year financial update on
the district Monday.

Roy Roberts has called a news conference for 11 a.m. to announce a six-month update and revised budget deficit projections.

In September, the district was facing a $327 million budget deficit. Its finances have been under state control since 2009.

Enrollment is about 66,000, down from 104,000 in 2007.

Detroit's schools have lost millions of dollars in state per-pupil funding as thousands of parents fled the district for city charters or suburban schools.

DPS website

Some laid-off teachers in the Detroit Public Schools are being recalled by the district which has enrolled more students this fall than expected.

The district said Saturday in a release that principals at 34 schools have requested more teachers, and that 44 teachers were added to classrooms by October 19.

Twenty-three others have reported back to work and another 22 are expected to return. Some teachers and parents have complained of classes with more students than allowed under the teachers' union contract.

The district says it has 22 classrooms out of more than 4,000 that have exceeded student number limits.

The district ended last school year with about 74,000 students and budgeted for 66,000 this fall. Spokesman Steve Wasko said projections have been exceeded by almost 300 students.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Detroit school cited for overcrowding

Last week, the Detroit News reported on overcrowding in DPS classrooms. They reported on 55 kindergartners in a class at Nolan Elementary School, and that a science course in a DPS high school had 72 students. Now there's news of one school being cited by the city's fire department.

From the Detroit News:

A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshal's Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her son's kindergarten class.

Lt. Gerod Funderburg of the Detroit Fire Department said the fire marshal's office issued a citation at Nolan Elementary School, 1150 Lantz.

"They went out today and issued a ticket for overcrowding," Funderburg said.

Detroit home prices on the rebound?

Home prices have been sliding in Detroit prior to the Great Recession, but there are some good signs in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Low inventories of homes on the market and increased demand have hoisted metro Detroit home prices by 6.1% since the beginning of the year, according to research by IHS Global Insight.

So are home prices finally on the rebound after five years in decline -- or is this a temporary lull before another big drop during the fall?

Most industry experts don't expect a huge drop, but IHS has forecast another 5% to 10% home price decline nationwide before recovery begins.

An analyst told the Free Press that because Detroit entered the housing slump before the rest of the country, it might recover ahead of the rest of the country as well - especially as the region adds more jobs.

Smashed pumpkins on the morning commute

From the Associated Press:

It was no treat driving on a Detroit-area freeway after a truck dumped a load of pumpkins during the morning commute.

Hundreds of pumpkins were scattered Wednesday across several lanes of traffic on eastbound Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills.

Many of the pumpkins were pulverized as drivers passed through. Video from a traffic camera showed motorists slowly making their way through the pre-Halloween mess.

WWJ-AM reports snow plows later were used to clear what remained of the pumpkins from the roadway.

Michigan State Police Sgt. James Kemp tells the Detroit Free Press that one motorist had a smashed  windshield, but no injuries were reported.

Kemp says police stopped the truck and the driver could be cited for having an unstable load.

user Woodley Wonderworks / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The chancellor of Michigan's new Education Achievement Authority says his office has posted nine leadership positions that need to be filled before the start of the 2012-13 academic year.

John Covington met Tuesday with the authority's executive committee to review what he has done since taking the job last month.

The authority will oversee Michigan's Education Achievement System, announced in June by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The system will include the bottom 5 percent of public schools in Detroit. A few dozen Detroit Public Schools are expected to fall under the new system. It will expand statewide the following year.

Covington says his leadership team will include a deputy chancellor for Instructional Support and Educational Accountability, a deputy for Business and Fiscal affairs and a chief officer for Human Capital.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Nearly two months into the school year, more than a quarter of Detroit Public Schools are reporting overcrowding issues in some classrooms.

That’s according to an annual survey by the Detroit Federation of Teachers. The union’s contract caps class size at 35 students.

Some schools reported classrooms with more than 50 students. Some also reported lacking supplies like textbooks.

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