This Week & Next (June 24, 2016)

Governor Signs DPS Rescue Bills
On Tuesday this week Governor Snyder signed the $617 million package of bills intended to rescue the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) from financial and academic ruin. The six-bill package pays off the accumulated $467 million in DPS operational debt (plus $48 million appropriated in May for a total of $515 million); provides $150 million in transition costs to cover cash flow and building repair needs in the district; returns the district to an elected board of directors after the November election; and eliminates the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) by presumably returning these failing schools to the district. One year ago these were the key issues to be addressed according to Detroit Democrats, even though they all ended up voting against the bills. There remains a troubling running commentary from Detroit elites that since the state didn’t provide Mayor Duggan with 100% authority over the opening, closing and location of every traditional and charter public school in the city, that the new DPS district will not be able to compete and survive. We fear this continued negative narrative will become a self-fulfilling prophesy, or that it provides Detroit Democrats someone to blame, other than themselves, if the district doesn’t prosper. In any event, most objective observers know the facts here, and understand the eventual success or failure of traditional public education in the state’s largest city is clearly in Detroit’s hands. It’s up to Detroit to sink or swim on their own.

GLEP endorsed 25 incumbent Representatives this week
On Tuesday this past week GLEP announced the endorsement of 25 incumbent members of the House of Representatives seeking re-election this year. Click here to read more about these “Champions for Children” and why they earned our endorsement. There will be 40 open seats in this fall’s general election, and we hope voters will take the time to learn about the candidates and their positions on key education issues before the primary election on August 2. We’ll have a full listing of endorsed candidates in next week’s newsletter.

Michigan drops to 40th state for education
Michigan dropped to 40th in the nation for children’s education, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. In Michigan, more than half of young children are not in preschool, 71 percent of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. Click here for more Michigan data. We can, and we must, do better for our kids.

What’s next for failing schools in Detroit?
All eyes are on Natasha Baker and the State Reform Office she leads, as we usher in a new era of school accountability for failing traditional public and charter public schools in Detroit. Specific language in the DPS rescue package requires any school performing in the Bottom 5% for the three immediately preceding years shall be closed unless the State Reform Officer believes closure would result in an “undue hardship” for area students.  We agree with Ingrid Jacques of the Detroit News editorial page who says we should close Detroit’s worst schools, and we have high hopes for CEO Gary Jensen as he takes charge in East Detroit schools. How the SRO interprets the bill language and writes the business rules impacting school closure will be very interesting in the months ahead. Stay tuned for more on this critical and complex issue.

CRC Report on Detroit’s Falling School Population
Key findings from the recently-released report on Public Education Enrollment Trends in Detroit from the Citizens Research Council include the following:

  • Over the most recent 25-year period since 1990, Detroit’s population dropped 34 percent, but Detroit Public School’s (DPS’s) enrollment fell 73 percent.
  • The Detroit education market continues to shrink on the whole and almost all of the total enrollment decline is coming out of the DPS market share of total enrollment.
  • The recently crafted reform package to deal with DPS’s legacy debts and governance issues is likely to stabilize the district’s financial situation, at least in the near term.

As usual, this report reflects excellent research from the CRC, and it is worth the read.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, June 27

  • GLEP Announces Candidate Endorsements

Tuesday, June 28

Wednesday, June 29

Thursday, June 30

Friday, July 1

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please consider making a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!

Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director