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As clock ticks on DPS deal, Duggan rallies support for Detroit Education Commission

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan with students at the Detroit Promise Zone scholarship announcement.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is making a final push for a larger role in the city’s education landscape.

Duggan stood alongside some charter school operators and Detroit Public Schools officials Tuesday, in support of a Detroit Education Commission.

That commission is being debated in Lansing as part of a larger, bankruptcy-style restructuring for Detroit Public Schools, which needs hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid if it’s to open doors in the fall.

According to Duggan and other DEC advocates, the commission will provide some coordination between Detroit’s fractured school systems, where more students now attend charter schools than DPS.

They argue it’s needed to decide where schools open in the city, so that all neighborhoods are served; and to work with the state School Reform Office to develop an A-F grading system for all the city’s public schools, including charters.

The DEC is included in the state Senate version of a DPS aid package, but not in the House version. Charter school interests think it will unfairly curtail their growth, and so far House leaders have backed them up.

But on Tuesday, Duggan — who would be empowered to appoint all of the commission’s seven members — rejects that notion. He says some critics have “legitimate” concerns, and he’s open to some potential changes they’ve proposed.

“It’s been a good conversation with some folks,” Duggan said. “There are others who are just going to be against this no matter what, and we’ll just see whether they make up a majority or not.”

But Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, says accountability measures and city-wide coordination for things like school transportation can be accomplished without DEC.

“What will happen when you introduce city politics to this mix? We don’t know the answer to that,” Quisenberry said.

With state lawmakers expected to take up DPS legislation sometime this week, the DEC remains a tough sell for many.

But Machion Jackson, member of a turnaround board at Detroit’s Michigan Technical Academy, says Duggan’s campaign has picked up steam.

“I think hearing from him directly has changed some minds,” says Jackson, who says her currently low-performing school welcomes the DEC’s quality standards. “I would not be here if I had not heard from him directly.”

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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