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Coalition seeks urgent solution for Detroit schools

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
Detroit Public Schools is offering 45 schools to charter companies.

The Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren is pushing hard to publish a set of recommendations for improving Detroit schools by the end of March.

The group is gathering feedback from community and key leaders over a 90-day period to find solutions for a district hit hard by a dwindling population, and a fractured school landscape.

Skillman Foundation President Tonya Allen says Detroit is home to the country's poorest urban children, and the city's population has fallen by about 40% over the last 20 years. Debt has piled up while a pattern of frequent school openings and closings have made it difficult to deliver consistent services or achieve a balance of supply and demand for schools in neighborhoods. 

"For the last 20 years or so we have not really addressed the problem. We have just pushed it into the future," Allen says. She believes that addressing problems in governance and finance alone won't be enough to improve academic achievement in the district, which she says is, "bottom of the barrel."

Three of the coalition's six questions focus on a vision of future states for the schools.

"The future state question is really about setting aspirations for us as a community and setting expectations for our schools in conjunction with the teachers and principals and administrators, about what we want for our kids, what our schools must produce, and really raising the standard about what we should be achieving," Allen says.