Financial mismanagement and declining enrollment are ringing a death knell for Detroit's schools. According to Detroit Public School Emergency Manager Robert Bobb, to close a $327 million budget deficit, he'll need to shut half of the city's campuses over the next two years.
Under the plan, the 142 current schools in the district would be reduced to 72 by the 2012-13 school year. What will happen to the students attending those schools? Bobb plans to shift them over to the remaining campuses, raising class sizes to 62 students per teacher.
Keith Johnson, the head of the local teachers union, the Detroit Federation of Teachers, says Bobb's proposed class size increase won't fly. Johnson told the Detroit News that, "These increases are antithetical to learning. Secondly, our classrooms aren't even built to accommodate those numbers," he said.
School closings are nothing new for Detroit. Ongoing budget woes and declining enrollment have led to the closing of 60 sites over the past two years. According to Bobb's current deficit reduction plan, the additional campus closings will save the district more than $33 million. Bobb also suggested that DPS could save another $12.4 million by just abandoning the buildings instead of keeping them clean, boarded up and monitored by district security.
Financial restructuring plans include splitting the Detroit schools into two separate districts, accessing tobacco settlement money to fill budget holes, and allowing charter school operators to pay an administrative fee to DPS and take over campuses.
Without legislative action to provide more money, DPS will run out of operating cash in March.
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