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Detroit schools face more deep cuts in deficit-elimination plan

The Detroit Public Schools plans to shrink even more to wipe out its deficitby 2016.

The district’s latest deficit elimination plan projects that enrollment will dip below 40,000 by then.
And in order to “stay ahead of the cost curve,” emergency financial manager Roy Roberts proposes some drastic cuts—including closing as many as 28 more schools, and cutting more than 1000 employees.

District spokesman Steve Wasko says the state-mandated plan is based on “conservative” projections—but Roberts hopes to turn things around.

“His goal is to really change the long-term direction of enrollment loss, or at least to stem that,” Wasko said. “And really began a strategic planning process that would really put DPS more on offense, in terms of regaining some of its long-term lost market share.”

Fewer than half of Detroit’s school-age children now attend a DPS school. The district had more than 150,000 students in 2000.

Roberts also sent a letter to DPS employees saying “nothing is set in stone” when it comes to the proposed cuts, and he hopes to avoid the worst of them. Wasko said it’s “responsible” to plan for the “worst case scenario” supported by current enrollment projections.

But Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said Roberts’ efforts to fix things are only making them worse. “You cannot cut your way to prosperity in education, and expect to have the
[desired] outcomes,” he said.

Johnson and other critics say the district has “contributed to its own demise” by turning 15 former schools over to the state-run Education Achievement Authority.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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