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Snyder's plan for Detroit Public Schools faces serious challenges

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The Highland Park school district is almost out of cash. The state is working on a solution to keep kids in school.

With the roads funding plan behind them, the Michigan Legislature is on break until December. When they return, fixing Detroit Public Schools will be at the top of the legislative agenda.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a controversial plan for DPS that would start a new district responsible for educational instruction and general operations while leaving the roughly $500 million in legacy debt with the old district.

Funding for the new district would come from the general school fund while that legacy debt was being paid off. All told, Snyder says the total cost will be more than $700 million. As part of his plan, Snyder has also proposed appointing a school board, phasing in a local board over time.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, spoke with me about some of the political challenges Gov. Snyder faces to getting this plan passed. 

Demas says the plan is getting criticism from within the city and neighboring school districts:

What a lot of people are obviously concerned about is that Detroit Public Schools have been a mess for decades. Every new intervention has promised that the kids will be put first and that the financial woes will finally be solved and that hasn’t happened, time and time again. So there is skepticism that students will get short shrift and this won’t get at the root of the problem.

Sikkema says the plan doesn't address the issue of academic performance:

Until you improve academic outcomes, Detroit Public Schools is not an attractive place to for parents to send their children. And that’s what’s causing primarily the financial problem because they are losing students.

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