The plan revealed during last week by Governor Snyder to overhaul education in Detroit is complicated. There are a lot of heated emotions around it because it’s ambitious and controversial.

The fact is that Detroit Public Schools have accumulated $483 million in debt. Also, the state has had control of the Detroit Public Schools for the last 15 years. Academic achievement in the city – Charters and DPS – is on the whole abysmal compared to the rest of the state and students are fleeing in droves, often along with their parents, exacerbating Detroit’s downward population spiral.

There’s no doubt something needs to be done. But, what to do is of hot debate, and has been for many years. Sadly, there has been a lot of talk but very little progress.

So let’s break down this latest idea, and you decide if it has merits.

1. Much like the GM Bankruptcy, there would be an “old” DPS that would handle the debt and a “new” DPS called the City of Detroit Education District. The old DPS would keep the current board and Emergency Manager, and the new CDED would have a board of its own, with the governor appointing four members and the mayor three. Appointed members would be eventually replaced by elected officials in 2017, 2019, and 2021.

2. Action is happening now because the State government is without a doubt on the hook for that giant, almost half-a-billion dollar school debt under the state constitution. The current district has a total of $2 billion of debt and long-term obligations. The State is between a rock and a hard place, no matter what lawmakers want to tell you. Bankruptcy, like what the City government did, isn’t an option here.

3. Old DPS would have basically one function. That function would pay off the $483 million debt of the old DPS by directing the non-homestead millage (oversimplified: business and non-primary residence property taxes), and  eventually paying off the crushing debt load.

4. This would leave “new” DPS (CDED) in a much better financial position. All of the current bargaining agreements, like those with the teachers, would transfer over to the new CDED. It would not be a district of charters. CDED is viewed as a “successor district.”

Infographic from the Governor’s office describing plan

5. However, there would be a common enrollment system between CDED and the Charter Schools. Right now, it’s a free-for-all for students, and schools are being built or created all over the city with no central planning. A new “Detroit Education Commission” would not only oversee enrollment, but also academic standards across both charters and CDED as well as have power to close schools.

6. Other school districts stand to lose $50 per pupil per year across the state. Officials shared splitting DPS in two would cost the state School Aid Fund between $53 million and $72 million annually.

7. There won’t be pension cuts as part of this, as teacher pensions are through a separate statewide program called MSPERS – the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

8. Many teachers are so vocally against the plan to the extend that they didn’t come to work, and 18 schools closed Thursday. But they also went marching before the plan was revealed.

9. Mayor Mike Duggan is on record hating the plan. He told the Detroit News, “I have no interest in that role.” Continuing, “I am very disappointed in this plan. In particular, that it basically creates long-term state control of local schools. State control of local schools is bad and it’s been a failure in Detroit.” That said, progressive commentator Jack Lessenberry is “very impressed” with the plan.

10. There’s a way to go before this becomes reality. The legislature is going to have to be on board, and there’s bound to be continued resistance from the unions, not to mention if Mayor Duggan isn’t on board, that’ll make things even harder. Snyder wants to have this in place by July 1, 2016.

That said, that big debt is going to have get paid off one way or another. The question is now just a matter of “how.”

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