Michigan Governor Calls for State to Pay Detroit Schools Debt

1 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

18 Detroit Schools Forced To Close As Teachers Rally In Lansing Against Snyder’s ‘Reprehensible’ New Education Plan.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. DETROIT (WWJ) – Eighteen public schools in Detroit were forced to close Thursday as dozens of teachers head to Michigan’s capital to show their “determined opposition” of the governor’s strategy for reforming education in the city.

Rick Snyder and other Proposal 1 supporters have launched a road tour urging voters to approve a tax increase on May 5 that would generate $1.2 billion a year more for roads. Rick Snyder proposed the state pay at least $483 million to retire debt racked up by Detroit public schools, as part of a broader plan to overhaul the struggling school district. Rick Snyder wants to break Detroit’s troubled school district into two entities and will ask the Legislature to contribute more state funding to resolve nearly a half-billion dollars in operating debt. Rick Snyder on Thursday outlined a sweeping overhaul of Detroit’s troubled state-run school district, proposing to divide its operations to address the “crushing” debt he said is hurting education in a city just months removed from bankruptcy. The Republican governor introduced the financing plan to transform one of the nation’s largest public-school districts—to eliminate chronic red ink, improve poor academic performance and return management to local control after almost a decade under state oversight.

Snyder’s plan, outlined Thursday, calls for an “old” and “new” district — one to pay off debt and the other to operate schools he says are in academic crisis. “We know the system we have in place now has not worked for too many years for too many students and their families,” Snyder said, in statement. “We’re collaborating on a new approach to help children get the education they need and deserve so they can be successful. The plan, which needs approval from bailout-fatigued lawmakers and prompted Detroit teachers to skip school on the same day it was being unveiled, would create the new City of Detroit Education District to handle the academic operations of all public schools under what initially would a board appointed by the governor and mayor.

The visit kicked off a multicity bus tour scheduled to include Friday stops in Cadillac, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, and Monday in Lansing and Detroit. The proposal calls for each entity to be overseen by its own school board and both the old and new districts would be subject to a financial review board, similar to what was used in Detroit’s bankruptcy, until the debt is resolved. Darnell Earley, DPS emergency manager, chided the teachers, saying the “unplanned turn of events is seriously misguided and directly harms our students.” “While we can agree to disagree on matters of policy, those disagreements should never impact our students and the instructional time they are entitled to as it has today – with … schools having been closed due to lack of teachers and other instructional staff,” Earley said in a statement. “It is truly unfortunate that so many of those who profess to be dedicated educators have decided to participate in this action given its unjustifiable and unconscionable consequence.” Snyder is expected on Thursday to reveal his plan, which would essentially split Detroit’s public schools — creating an “old district” that would take care of the millions of dollars of debt and a “new district” that would focus on educating the 47,000 students at DPS.

Many educators say they oppose any plan that moves the city toward more charter schools and doesn’t include money to reduce class size and restore needed support services in public schools. An education manager would determine whether low-performing schools should be closed, all traditional and charter schools would be put under an umbrella group and a centralized enrollment system would be established so parents could enroll their kids in a wider variety of schools. “We’re just not seeing the results these students deserve,” Snyder, a Republican, said at a news conference at his Detroit office, noting that two-thirds of high school students are not proficient in reading and 94 percent are not proficient in math.

In April, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called for the state to release the city’s public-school system from emergency management and quickly return control to the city’s elected school board. As expected, the governor has proposed splitting the district, creating a new district charged with educating students and leaving the old district to pay its debts. Snyder’s announcement was pre-empted by the cancellation of classes in 18 Detroit schools after 500 of 2,800 teachers took personal days in protest in advance of his plan. “We’re drawing a line in the sand and we’re going to fight,” Steve Conn, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, told reporters during a demonstration outside Snyder’s Lansing office near the Capitol. “We know we’ve got the people of Detroit on our side completely. … As teachers, we need reduced class sizes, books, supplies — all the things (Snyder) never addresses.” The walkout drew the ire of GOP legislative leaders, who said the teachers let down students. The plan aims to address persistent academic and financial distress in DPS as Detroit’s education landscape has grown increasingly fragmented over the last several years. We need public schools and not charters.” “(It’s) amazing they have no concern when they put 55 in a classroom and don’t even provide textbooks, or just following the EAA down the road to no education at all,” Conn said. “They’re not caring for the students.” TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries.

DPS operates under an oppressive amount of debt; the money spent to satisfy those obligations restricts the district’s ability to educate its children. The new district would receive the state’s per-pupil foundation allowance, and funding to replace millage-generated dollars from the state’s School Aid Fund.

Allocating an additional $72 million a year to the district could cost other Michigan districts about $50 per student in annual funding, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The city’s school district has had four emergency managers in the past decade, but its debt has continued to climb, and its academic performance has generally remained poor as students fled the city’s public schools for charter and suburban venues. Snyder said he expects “yelling … from all sides” but that the state should be proactive because it ultimately is legally responsible for much of Detroit’s debt. In turn, other school districts in Michigan could lose as much as $50 in funding per student, likely making the proposal a tough sell for state legislators.

Snyder’s proposal comes on the heels of a widely publicized education plan released in March by a group called the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren. Supporters have praised his record in the state of economic recovery, including the city of Detroit’s successful trip through federal bankruptcy court last year. Unlike his bankruptcy plan for the city, the restructuring effort of the school district doesn’t anticipate defaulting on its debts or calling for cuts to teacher pensions through Chapter 9 bankruptcy. But the realities of Lansing, and the need to invest state funds in the district, mean that all-local control would be politically unpalatable to the outstate lawmakers’ whose support will be required to move this plan forward.

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