24 February 2011

Detroit Public Schools In Death Spiral

The Michigan Department of Education gave Detroit Public Schools deadlines this month for moving forward with a deficit-elimination plan.

The plan calls for closing 70 schools [out of 142] by 2013, increasing high school class sizes to more than 60 students, and outsourcing and consolidating services with the city and the countywide education agency between this year and 2014.

The cuts will meet the goal of eliminating the deficit, but [state-appointed emergency fiscal manager Robert] Bobb contends the plan is not in the best interest of educating DPS students and could drive students away. The district has about 74,000 students, down from about 175,000 in 1999. It is expected to drop to about 58,000 students in 2014.

From here

Two years ago, the Detroit Public Schools had 194 schools.

Starting this fall, the district plans to boost class sizes in grades 4-12 and at all grade levels by fiscal 2012, which begins July 1, to save $16.8 million. The plan would hike class sizes for:

Grades K-3 from 17-25 students to 29 in 2012-13 and 31 in 2013-14.

Grades 4-5 from 30 students to 37 in 2012-13 and 39 in 2013-14.

Grades 6-8 from 35 students to 45 in 2012-13 and 47 in 2013-14.

Grades 9-12 from 35 students to 60 in 2012-13 and 62 in 2013-14. . .

[T]he district . . . [may] save another $12.4 million from the school closures if it "simply abandons" the closed buildings. Past policy has been to keep the closed schools clean and secure, officials said, but the district could cut costs by eliminating storage, board-up and security. . . .

In the past year, debt in the district has increased by more than $100 million, brought on by a mix of revenue declines in property taxes, reduced state aid, declining enrollment and an unplanned staffing surge this past fall.

The Detroit Public Schools face a deficit of $327 million this year ($4,419 per student). The median salary of teachers in the Detroit Public Schools is about 30% below the median salary of teachers in Michigan.

About 54,000 students in the District attend charter schools, leaving the district with infrastructure and debts it lacks the revenue to support as its student base shrinks and the property tax base and population of Detroit decline.

The Detroit Public Schools are 90% African-American (and 2.4% Anglo), and 87.2% of Detroit Public Schools students are in the free and reduced lunch program because they are poor. Michigan public school students statewide are 20% African-American (and 71.2% Anglo), and 40.8% of them are in the free annd reduced lunch program.

Remarkably, despite the challenges it faces, the Detroit Public Schools managed a 62% graduation rate in the most recent year. The Denver Public Schools, which a much healthier economic environment and much larger proportion of middle class students, manages only a 52% graduation rate.

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