Detroit Public Schools is facing an historic crisis. The district is on track to run out of the money it needs to operate by April. Then, it would be forced into a bankruptcy that would leave the state on the hook for billions of dollars in debt backed by the state.
Some lawmakers say Senate Bills 710 and 711 would cut the state’s losses and help the district get on track. The bills would provide state oversight to the district, and give the district more than $700 million to pay down debt and restructure.
During a hearing before the Senate Government Operations committee, stakeholders offered testimony about the bill.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan asked senators to consider putting an elected school board in place right away with financial oversight. He said after years under state-appointed emergency management, the district has seen debt increase and unimpressive academic results.
“The people of Detroit aren’t willing to accept the state’s standard. This isn’t right!” said Duggan.
He warned that the legislation didn’t do enough in his opinion to create an environment for long-term success.
He asked lawmakers to create a Detroit Education Commission. It would be made up of people the mayor would appoint. They would analyze both public and charter schools based on academics and demand. The mayor said while many charter schools are succeeding, many are also failing.
"We have the lowest performing school district and yet DPS is outperforming 24 charter schools,” said the mayor.
Duggan said there are some neighborhoods with far too many schools, and other neighborhoods with no schools. The commission would be have the power to close schools and incentivize the opening of schools where they are needed to address these issues. He says Detroit Public Schools cannot compete with the sporadic opening and closing of charter schools in neighborhoods where sometimes there isn’t a need for another school.
Charter school lobbyists spoke out against the plan. They say the market should decide whether charter schools stay open.
“It should not be a political decision,” said Dan Quisenberry, President Michigan Association of Public School Academies.
“I believe good charter school operators will benefit from my plan,” said Duggan.