dps

student at a desk raising hand
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Yet another Detroit Public Schools administrator is accused of stealing from the district.

This time the alleged scam steered at least $1,275,000 to a former grants manager for tutoring services that were never delivered.

Carolyn StarkeyDarden worked for the district from 1968 to 2005. She went on to set up a series of companies that got tutoring contracts with the district.

Courtesy of Imani Harris

The future of the Detroit Public Schools as a functioning district is in doubt. The state Legislature is haggling over whether to give it a fighting chance or shortchange it – and allow uncertified teachers.

That has legislators, the governor, some business leaders and teachers very concerned. But they aren’t the only ones.

Imani Harris, a sophomore at Renaissance High in Detroit, voiced her thoughts on what’s happening to DPS in a letter. She joined us today on Stateside.

Jodi Westrick

There are big differences between the state House and Senate on what to do next about the budget crisis facing Detroit Public Schools. 

The district needs a massive influx of state aid to stay open next school year. DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather joined Cynthia Canty on today’s Stateside to explain how she hopes to elevate the quality of education for all Detroit public school students.

State lawmakers at odds over best DPS rescue package

May 11, 2016
Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, speaks to reporters on the Senate floor after the Senate passed Senate Bills 710, 711, and 819 - 822, measures that would reform Detroit's public schools.
senatorgoeffhansen.com

Michigan lawmakers are at odds over the best rescue package for Detroit Public Schools, including one plan that could leave the district $80 million in debt by September.

A new memo from State Treasurer Nick Khouri predicts a dark future for DPS if an agreement cannot be reached among lawmakers, with teachers missing paychecks and the district going severely into debt.

Detroit teachers want a forensic audit, so they held a lemonade stand to raise money and public awareness at Detroit's Eastern Market this weekend.
flickr user Rob Bertholf / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit Public Schools has been controlled by the state since 2009. 

Yet, the latest emergency manager says without an infusion of cash from the state, the district won't be able to meet its financial obligations after June 30. 

Michigan state Capitol
User: mattileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A set of Republican-sponsored bills to fund and overhaul the Detroit Public Schools is being met with skepticism in the state Senate. The state House adopted the legislation in a marathon session that lasted until early this morning.

Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It took 15 hours and an all-nighter, but the state House narrowly managed to approve a package of six bills aimed at fixing the Detroit Public Schools. 

Michigan Radio's It's Just Politics team Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta sit down with us today to talk about the bills, and about how the House and Senate have different views about how to keep DPS doors open. 

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about Gov. Rick Snyder's plans to meet with President Obama in Flint today, teacher sickouts in Detroit and the future of the presidential campaign, now that the Indiana primary is over.

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

Nearly all Detroit schools closed today due to a massive sick-out conducted by the city's teachers.

Earlier this year, there were a series of sick-outs aimed at bringing attention to both the poor physical and financial state of Detroit Public Schools.

Today's protest is different from previous events because the teacher's union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, is encouraging teachers to take part. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools says the district will have no money to continue paying teachers this summer without further funding from the state.

  The Detroit Free Press reports  that former bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said in an email Saturday that the district also will be unable to fund summer school or special education programs after June 30.

  Rhodes was appointed by the state to oversee the district's finances.

There are those in Lansing who say, perhaps not so openly, that the people who run Detroit Public Schools can’t be trusted, that they are incompetents and thieves, and that to give them more money and free them from emergency management is to court disaster.

Yesterday, we learned that the federal government is accusing a dozen present and former principals of doing their part to prove that Detroit Public School administrators deserve to be held in contempt.

flickr user Violet Jiang / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Late last week, the state House passed a stopgap funding bill that gives nearly $50 million to the Detroit Public Schools.

That’s just enough money to see the flailing school district through to the end of this school year.

Governor Snyder’s proposed $715 million fix is still on the table. It would divide the district into two entities: an “Old Co.” that would use millage revenue to pay off the $515 million in debt, and a “New Co.” that would exist solely to educate students.

For interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather, allowing DPS to shut down is "unimaginable"
Michigan State University

The Detroit Public Schools have a new interim superintendent appointed by state emergency manager Judge Stephen Rhodes.

Alycia Meriweather is now in charge of academics for DPS. Unlike a lot of previous top administrators, she’s actually from Detroit and a DPS graduate. She’s also a long-time Detroit teacher.

DPS has been closing  schools, ending programs, losing students and losing money, a downward trend that has continued under the string of state-appointed emergency managers.

For teachers in Detroit, Meriweather says it’s been an exercise in creativity.

Recently I was led through an abandoned building in Detroit.

“The first time we came in here in 2013 it was still relatively intact. The power was off, but pretty much everything else was in decent shape. It wasn’t in great shape, but just a matter of months and this place was completely destroyed,” one of my guides told me.

So, who walked away from a perfectly good building, failed to secure it well enough to keep metal thieves out?

The Detroit Public School District.

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s top treasury official is warning lawmakers to not let the state’s largest district go bankrupt.

A state House panel on Wednesday held its first hearing on legislation to keep Detroit Public Schools from going broke in April.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri told lawmakers bankruptcy would likely cost taxpayers more than twice as much as a state bailout.

“The total cost to the state and others is about $700 million with this package. It’s probably about $1.8 billion or so if the district actually files and we work through bankruptcy,” said Khouri.

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

The top lawmaker in the state House says bankruptcy should be on the table as a way to help resolve Detroit Public Schools’ financial crisis.

Both the state House and Senate have plans that would commit hundreds of millions of state dollars to help restructure the district and pay down debt.

 Suppose you came from fairly humble circumstances and had struggled to earn a college degree. You decide to become a teacher yourself, because that’s the only way poor and disadvantaged children have any chance at achieving a successful life.

You wind up teaching in a building that is falling apart, that is infested with mold and rodents, where the heat doesn’t work well in the winter, and it is like an oven in the late summer. You have to worry about fights, some involving kids bigger than you are. Guns and gangs are very real problems.

user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State House Republicans are offering their own proposal to aid Detroit Public Schools.

Like similar legislation in the state Senate, the bills would restructure the state’s largest district and commit more than $70 million a year from the state to help pay down its debt.

student at a desk raising hand
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents, teachers, and school officials were in Lansing on Tuesday to speak out on bills meant to rescue Michigan’s largest district.

Demonstrators gathered outside a state Senate committee hearing on Senate bills 710 and 711. Not to oppose the legislation, but to bring attention to the deteriorating state of Detroit Public Schools (DPS).

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

Legislative hearings are underway on a plan to keep Detroit Public Schools from going broke.

Bills in the state Senate would commit more than $700 million from the state to restructure Michigan’s largest district and help pay down its crushing debt.

Lawmakers serving on the state Senate Government Operations Committee acknowledged repeatedly that the stakes are high.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan’s emergency manager law has received considerable criticism in the wake of the Flint water crisis. The concept of the state moving in to take power away from local officials to fix a financial crisis is not new. In fact, Public Act 72, known as the Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, was passed in 1990.

Back in the bad old final years of the Soviet Union, when the economy and the infrastructure were falling apart and the government was mostly non-responsive, there was a sour little joke that reminds me of Michigan today.

In the Soviet story, Stalin and Konstantin Chernenko, one of his increasingly ineffectual successors are going across Siberia on a train. Suddenly, it breaks down. There are, of course, no spare parts.

Chalkboard
user alkruse24 / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Bills meant to crack down on teacher “sickout” protests are moving forward in the Michigan Senate.

The bills would define the sickouts as illegal teacher strikes in state law. The protests have closed dozens of Detroit schools in recent weeks.

A legislative panel approved the legislation on Tuesday while adding more teeth to the bills. New language would temporarily block unions from representing teachers and collecting dues in districts where sickouts are happening.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools says it has begun fixing violations found during city inspections.

Teachers with Detroit Public Schools held sickouts in recent weeks to call attention to the deplorable condition of many of the buildings.

"We're doing the best that we can with the resources that we have, and we are honestly committed to  working towards resolving the issues that are on the inspection reports from the city of Detroit," said DPS spokeswoman, Michelle Zdrodowski.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, with support from the American Federation of Teachers, and several parents filed a lawsuit Thursday against Detroit Public Schools and its state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley.

The suit is asking the court to compel DPS and Earley to repair all existing building code violations, and for the creation of an appropriately funded capital plan that will bring schools up to "21st century standards."

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

In this Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry talks about why Flint residents are being charged a lot of money for water they can't drink. Flint residents aren't paying those bills, and the city's water utility says it might run out of money by the end of the year. Lessenberry also talks about the problems plaguing Detroit Public Schools. 


lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit teachers, parents and students have been complaining their school buildings are falling apart.

Now, health and safety inspection reports from DPS schools are being posted online, and they're not pretty. 

In the first batch of 11 school inspections, officials found rodent and insect issues, mold, a gym that's completely closed because of water damage, broken glass, bathroom doors that don't close, and boilers that don't work. 

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Court of Claims is all over the news lately, with Detroit Public Schools’ attempt to establish a temporary restraining order to block teacher sick-outs and the class action lawsuits in Flint due to the water crisis.

But what is the Court of Claims?

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

Several schools around the state closed Monday in response to threats made on social media over the weekend.

Four schools closed for the day, and one school has heightened security as a result.

University Prep Academy, University Prep Science and Math, Lake Orion High School, and Lincoln High School all closed Monday as a result of threats. Cass Technical High School in Detroit received a threat, but remained open as officials investigate.

Cass Tech Alumni Association

As a counselor at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Monica Jones knows this hasn't been the happiest couple of weeks at Detroit Public Schools. 

Between teacher sickouts to draw attention to unsustainable teaching and learning conditions, more news about just how terrible the district's finances are, and scathing criticism from Lansing aimed at DPS teachers, "there's like an ugly air, like an ugly funk going on," Jones says. “So we wanted to do something positive. There’s too much negativity out there, and all that negativity weighs you down.” 

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