Charters, Governor Not On Same Page On DPS Reform

MIRS.QOTD.Nov20

MIRS Newsletter (11/20/15) – Gov. Rick SNYDER‘s office wants the first bill in a likely seven-bill Detroit Public School (DPS) reform package introduced Dec. 1 in the Senate, but the charter school community is still in negotiations with the administration over how they will be treated as part of the structuring. 

As it stands today, Gary NAEYAERT, who lobbies for the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), said the charter community remains deeply concerned about many features of the DPS package, starting with the creation of a new traditional public school district to replace DPS. 

It does not back creation of a new Detroit Education Commission (DEC) that grants a “political appointee CEO complete power to open, locate, or close all public schools in the city.” In its ideal world, charters would not fall under the powers of the new DEC, but the current proposal includes them. 

Snyder’s proposed five-person DEC would be made up of three mayoral and two gubernatorial appointees who could, under potentially a different administration, decide it wants to close down charter schools for political reasons. 

Currently, 50,000 Detroit students attend one of the either roughly 50 charter schools in Detroit or 50 charter schools in the nearby suburbs. 

Naeyaert said the talks started nine months ago when the Governor first advanced his DPS blueprint, which included at the time a “mandatory, universal enrollment system that hinders parental choice and could be used to simply prop up a new school district.” 

Snyder spokesperson Dave MURRAY noted the universal enrollment option has been replaced by a voluntary plan as part of Snyder’s Oct. 19 updated presentation (See “Snyder: $715M Over 10 Years Needed For Old DPS Debt, New District Costs,” 10/19/15). 

GLEP would prefer to “liberate the remaining 47,000 and families from DPS, a financially and academically bankrupt system” through an all-choice school district where students and families select which schools to attend. 

Naeyaert is also objecting that the $715 million over 10 years needed to bail out DPS’ debt come out of the School Aid Fund. His objection is charter schools will lose some of its funding in exchange for becoming more vulnerable to shutdown. DPS’ debt is estimated to be around $515 million. Snyder is seeking another $200 million on top of that as seed money to kick off the new district. 

“We’re giving up $500 per student over the next decade and what are we getting in return? An opportunity for someone to shut you down for no reason?” Naeyaert asked. 

Naeyaert also said if the administration wants to impose an A-F letter grade system on Detroit schools, it should be implemented statewide. He also wants to see the State Reform Office and State Reform District get involved with chronically failing schools as opposed to the Education Achievement Authority or this new DEC. 

Murray noted the charter school supporters are among the many groups that are submitting feedback on Snyder’s plan. 

“We’re appreciative of their input because, in the end, we all want Detroit families to have quality school options so children can get the best education possible and Detroit’s revitalization can continue into the neighborhoods,” Murray said.

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