Funds helping Detroit Public Schools invest in new and current programs, but is it enough?

Posted at 11:33 PM, Sep 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-01 23:33:01-04

When lawmakers passed legislation providing $617 million to keep Detroit Public Schools out of bankruptcy, they said it gave the district a clean slate.

But, is it enough?

7 Action News sat down with Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather and Transition Manager Judge Steven Rhodes to talk about their vision for the district’s future.

They want parents to know the district now has the ability to invest in new and current programs to improve academics.

“We have a lot of great things that people don’t know about,” said Meriweather. “We have tuition free Montessori, a school garden program, the dedication of our teachers, our robotic program, our flying program with a pilot at Davis Aerospace Technical High School.”

“We have a balanced budget for the first time in many many years,” said Judge Rhodes.

They know there are still problems that need to be addressed. 7 Action News exposed many problems last school year.

The buildings were falling apart and unhealthy. Our stories sparked city inspections that found hundreds of code violations. Many buildings have been repaired. Eight schools still don’t meet code.

Judge Rhodes says the legislation passed provided $50 million dollars less than what is needed to fix buildings neglected under state management.

“I have discussed this matter with the governor and he has told me he will do everything in his power to find that money for us,” said Rhodes. “I will continue to hold the governor to that and ask the people of Detroit to do the same.”

But, is the governor really committed to making that happen? 7 Action News reached out to him for comment.

A spokesperson said the legislation provided enough money to completely transform the Detroit Public Schools into a new, financially healthy district.

A statement said quote, ”Mr. Rhodes and his team now have more resources than ever to make the necessary improvements and provide a quality education to the students they are serving.”

Rhodes says there is another way the legislation hurt Detroit Public Schools. 7 Action News broke the news about the part of the legislation proposed by Representative Daniela Garcia (R-Holland). It allowed uncertified teachers, which aren’t allowed anywhere else in the state, in Detroit Public Schools. 

Rhodes says when it passed it created a marketing nightmare.

“It is not in the interests of the children of the City of Detroit to do that,” said Rhodes.

“It is a top priority to have a highly qualified teacher in front of all of our children on day one,” said Meriweather.

The district faces challenges making that happen. We introduced you to students who went months without teachers last school year.

Right now, there are about 200 teacher job openings in Detroit.

The district’s leaders are calling on teachers to apply and be part of something bigger than themselves.

“The future of the City of Detroit depends on the future of education here,” said Rhodes.

Now, the district needs to recruit new teachers and rebuild relationships with long time teachers. How does it do that?

The teacher protests and sick-outs that forced the closure of schools across the city made national headlines last school year.  We will talk about that and have a one-on-one interview with the National President of the American Federation of Teachers - about why the nation is watching Detroit still. That will air Friday on 7 Action News at 6.