Michigan governor to unveil plan for Detroit Public Schools

DETROIT – More than a dozen DetroitPublic Schools were forced to closeThursday when not enoughteachers showed up.

The closures were announcedaround 8 a.m., just hours beforeMichigan Gov. Rick Snyderdetailed a plan to restructure the district.

Most of the parents Local 4 spoke with said the cancellations were a surprise to them.

"School was closed. That's what they told me. That was it. But how I am supposed to know all of this until I get here? That's not right," said parent Keasha Foreman.

Marva Walker said she heard on Monday that teachers were planning on being out of the classroom to protest the governor's proposal to divideits operations to address the"crushing" debt.

Walker kept her children home on Thursday, but was out to see if any other students needed help getting home.

"A lot of these kids' parents work, they don't have transportation. Some of these kids walk. I just wanted to make sure a lot of the kids got home safe," Walker said.

About Snyder's plan

The plan, which needs approval from bailout-fatigued lawmakers and prompted Detroit teachers to walk off the job earlier Thursday, would create a new district, the City of Detroit Education District, to handle the academic operations of all public schools under an appointed board.

Detroit Public Schools would remain intact, charged with paying off $483 million in debt over approximately seven years.

Read: Michigan governor wants to split Detroit Public Schools district to isolate debt

Because existing local school taxes would go toward the debt, Snyder will ask the Republican-controlled Legislature to direct $72 million more annually to the new district for approximately seven years.

Detroit Public Schools, which has been under state oversight since 2009 and is labeled the country's worst-performing urban district academically, would continue to have an emergency manager until July 2016, when the shift to the new district would occur.

Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan would appoint a seven-member board to manage the district that would be replaced by elected members over six years. A separate review board would oversee finances, while another board of appointees would hire an education manager to oversee all traditional and charter schools in the city and determine if those not showing improvement should be closed.

The new district would have a universal enrollment system, in which parents could rank three choices among traditional and charter schools across the city.

"We're just not seeing the results these students deserve," Snyder said in a news conference at his Detroit office, noting that two-thirds of high school students are not proficient in reading and 94 percent are not proficient in math.

He added that the district "has crushing debt that's accumulated over many years that takes away from resources for the education process."

Classes were canceled in 18 Detroit schools Thursday after teachers decided to protest near the Capitol in Lansing and in Detroit, a decision that drew the ire of GOP legislative leaders who may be less willing to help Detroit a year after agreeing to contribute state money toward a deal to help the city emerge from bankruptcy.

Allocating an additional $72 million a year to the district could cost other Michigan districts about $50 per student in funding, according to the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Darnell Earley said the "unplanned turn of events" by teachers "is seriously misguided."

Steve Conn, head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said: "We're drawing a line in the sand and we're going to fight. We know we've got the people of Detroit on our side completely. ... As teachers, we need reduced class sizes, books, supplies — all the things (Snyder) never addresses."

Full statement from district emergency manager Darnell Earley:

"Detroit Public Schools' sole focus and goal is the education of the more than 47,000 students whose education it has been entrusted with by their families. That focus and goal should be shared by all DPS employees. While we can agree to disagree on matters of policy, those disagreements should never impact our students and the instructional time they are entitled to as it has today – with 17 schools having been closed due to lack of teachers and other instructional staff. This unplanned turn of events is seriously misguided and directly harms our students – taking away a day in the classroom that students can ill-afford given the school days already missed due to our severe weather this past winter. It is truly unfortunate that so many of those who profess to be dedicated educators have decided to participate in this action given its unjustifiable and unconscionable consequence."