The Detroit Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, and its 36-member group of community leaders recommended last week that the state should assume $350 million in district debt – Gov. Rick Snyder said it would not happen.
On Wednesday the governor made it known that his responsibility is to all school districts across the state and made it known that there would not be an extensive deal to help do away with the Detroit Public Schools enormous debt problem. He plans to have a complete strategy in place in the coming weeks.
Gov. Snyder said the state simply does not have the resources, nor could they afford to wrap their arms around DPS’s aggregate debt and monies owed, despite the coalition’s belief that without state help, things will not improve drastically. The estimated total amount owed is somewhere between $500 million and $700 million. The governor did say however, that he has earmarked $75 million to help all distressed districts statewide, DPS being one of them.
At this time, there are more seats than children in Detroit – that includes traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools. In the meantime, more charter schools are seeking to be authorized throughout the city. Last week, a coalition of community leaders submitted a report to the governor asking the state to pay down DPS’s debt and endorse plans for a Detroit Education Commission to oversee how schools are positioned throughout the city.
“It’s not just about paying off debt,” he said to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s about making sure the school district is successful. I want to see a successful school operation in Detroit that allows students to be successful.”
The governor commended the work of the Detroit Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.
“They did a good job of gathering lots of facts,” he said. “I appreciate their perspective. But what I would say in terms of recommendations is: I’m trying to look at where we find alignment and where we don’t find alignment.”
Skillman Foundation President and CEO Tonya Allen said to the Free Press that the she feels the governor is on the right track.
“I think that the $75 million that’s available is an appropriate initial investment by the state to help districts,” said Allen, one of the co-chairs of the coalition. “But I think the state is going to be required to put additional dollars down. At a time when enrollments in districts across the state are shrinking and, as a state, we’ve allowed more choice and more competition, we’re creating legacy debts that the state has to figure out.”
Zack Burgess is an award winning journalist. He is the Director/Owner of OFF WOODWARD MEDIA, LLC, where he works as a writer, editor and communications specialist. His work can be seen at zackburgess.com. Twitter: @zackburgess1