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Detroit Public Schools leave federal oversight, gain 'incremental independence'

After five years, the Detroit Public Schools hasbeen removed from “high-risk status.”

The Michigan Department of Education gave Detroit federal high-risk status in 2008, after a federal audit revealed some serious financial discrepancies amounting to about $53 million.

But the state says the district has put enough safeguards in place now to relax its monitoring.

So the district will gain what officials call “an incremental level of independence in its financial and administrative functions.”

For example, the district had been required to put any purchase over $25,000 up for competitive bid—but that constraint has been lifted. And the district will not get to review its own school improvement plans, rather than the state Department of Education.

But for the foreseeable future, the district will remain under the control of an emergency manager. Current emergency manager Jack Martin is the third person in that position since 2008.

Martin says the district still has a persistent, accumulated deficit of around $80 million.

“We still have challenges. We need to further increase enrollment to reduce the deficit,” Martin said. “So that’s going to be a continued focus of the district.”

But, Martin adds: “The district has turned around. And I think that if we can deal with the deficit issue, we’ll be fine.”

Martin said being removed from high-risk status will allow DPS more access to public and private funds.

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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