In AFT, Blog, Community, Legislative Update, Press Release

Today Governor Snyder held a press conference regarding the future of education in Detroit. We anticipate legislation next week, and will need your help to stand up for a public education system that provides the best possible outcomes for our students in Detroit and across the state.

AFT Michigan will continue to fight for our values and principles of equity and democracy, including communicating with decision makers and the public to ensure our voices are heard. Below is our media statement, as well as a summary of the Governor’s proposal:

“We have needed to stabilize education in Detroit for a long time, and addressing the Detroit Public Schools financial crisis is an imperative step. Obviously we are pleased to hear solutions where the state would take responsibility for the DPS debt, which has grown considerably under state control,” said David Hecker, AFT Michigan President and Co-Chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren.

“But the Governor’s plan also calls for the type of state control we’ve seen in Detroit for nearly two decades. We have deep concerns about what happens to the thousands of hard-working people employed by the Detroit Public Schools and their collective bargaining agreements during the transition to a new district. The Governor needs to commit to making the governance transition seamless for students, teachers, and staff, returning EAA schools to DPS, and fully empowering an elected school board. We will continue to work with our community partners to ensure the final legislation truly builds the strong schools and strong communities our students deserve.”

Below is a summary of what Gov. Snyder addressed during his press conference:

1. State Takes Responsibility for Detroit Public Schools Debt: The governor’s proposal calls for the creation of the Detroit Community School District (NewCo), which would take on the responsibility of educating Detroit students while the accumulated debt would remain with Detroit Public Schools (OldCo).

a. GOVERNANCE: Per the Governor’s plan, the Detroit Community School District would have a board that would initially include four members appointed by the governor and three members appointed by the mayor. Over five years, these appointed positions would be replaced through elections. AFT Michigan, as part of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren, asserts that the city of Detroit should have an elected school board like any other district. Furthermore, the Governor’s proposal does not address the return of Educational Achievement Authority schools to the city school district.

b. FUNDING: “OldCo” would continue to collect local property tax for the purposes of paying off the debt. “NewCo” would be funded by the state, which would make up for the loss of local property taxes, allowing the new district to receive the full amount of the per-pupil allotment. The governor calls for this additional money to come from the School Aid Fund, which would likely cost approximately $50 per student from districts across the state. AFT Michigan does not support this method of paying off the debt. After the DPS debt is paid off, “OldCo” would be dissolved and local property taxes will be transferred to the “NewCo.”

c. JOB SECURITY: The governor’s proposal does not guarantee the transfer of all employees to “NewCo” and there is no specific requirement that the Detroit Community School District honor collective bargaining agreements and serve as the successor employer to Detroit Public Schools. Even worse, the governor’s proposal allows for the outsourcing and privatization of instructional staff. AFT Michigan is in constant conversations with legislators and stakeholders to ensure that dedicated staff maintain their employment and there is no privatization.

2. Rationalizing the Education Landscape in Detroit: The Governor would place all traditional public, charter and EAA schools in the city of Detroit within an Empowerment Zone governed by a board called the Detroit Education Commission, managed by a Chief Education Officer, and charged with crafting citywide facilities, enrollment, and accountability plans.

a. DETROIT EDUCATION COMMISSION (DEC): The DEC would be a five-member board, with three members appointed by the governor and two members appointed by the mayor. AFT Michigan believes local community voice is essential and should be included in this process.

b. CHIEF EDUCATION OFFICER: The DEC would hire a Chief Education Officer, who is responsible for creating and incorporating community input into the Zone Accountability Plan (a A-F grading system for measuring school success, based primarily on student test scores), the Zone Facilities Plan (siting schools), and the Zone Enrollment plan (a voluntary lottery-based common enrollment system). The CEO would be responsible for closing or reconstituting schools.

We will keep you updated as the situation develops.

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