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Plan has significant advantages to school closings; EFM Bobb, finance team also present state budget proposal impact on DPS and long-term restructuring alternatives to current Deficit Elimination Plan
The Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert C. Bobb this morning presented the DPS Renaissance Plan 2012, a transformative plan to radically restructure academically-failing schools and significantly reduce operating costs by seeking proposals from local and national groups and charter school operators for 41 of the district’s 142 schools. These schools, including some high schools, currently enroll some 16,000 students and selected operators based on a competitive and rigorous RFP (Request for Proposals) process would operate the schools as public school academies with Detroit Public Schools as the authorizer. The identified schools will be announced this week and the RFP is expected to be released at that time.
The plan supports the district’s Deficit Elimination Plan by reducing operating costs by $75-$99 million and represents a dramatic new approach to declining enrollment for the 2011-12 fiscal year, a radical restructuring of academically failing schools and is an alternative to closing schools. Schools identified for charter operation will include those with the lowest academic performance in the District that have not been recently restructured or have not received major bond investments, along with other selected schools.
Bobb told the Detroit Board of Education at a public finance workshop at the Detroit International Academy today that the plan has the following advantages over the traditional approach to school closings:
- Academic failure will not be tolerated
- The best and most innovative approaches to educating students from across the country will be introduced in the District
- No students will be relocated from their current schools
- No additional vacant and boarded schools will impact Detroit neighborhoods
- The District will experience significant financial savings by eliminating all of the operating costs of the schools
- Immediate budget savings will be realized
- No costs will be incurred for closing and securing schools, an estimated savings of $22 million
- An estimated $21.85 million in revenue will be generated from leases to charter schools
- $7 million in non-general funds can be re-directed to other schools
Bobb stated that DPS charters will also have significant advantages over other types of charters within the state. “Students living within the neighborhood will be given priority enrollment, and charter operators will be contractually required to meet all special education needs of enrolled students,” he said. “Rather than simply closing schools, this plan seeks to transform DPS into one of the nation’s premier urban school districts by recruiting some of the best, proven school operators to serve Detroit’s children and remake schools that have been failing them for years.”
DPS facilities will be made available to Charter operators at competitive rates and will be equipped with materials, furniture and equipment. In the event that one of the proposed schools does not receive a qualified proposal, the school will close and students will be transferred to adjacent DPS schools.
Bobb stated that the current Deficit Elimination Plan required by law, which calls for shared services, reducing building principals, and increasing class sizes, will not provide for a viable educational system and that an alternative restructuring of DPS must be implemented. Several approaches were presented:
Under one model, DPS’s revenue would be used to pay off all outstanding debts and to close out the existing system and a brand new district would be established from the ground up with new systems, contracts and staffing levels. Existing schools would be transferred to this new system and the transition would be as seamless as possible for students and parents. Another option would hold the district harmless against revenue loss from declining enrollment for a period of time while other financing and operational strategies are developed to resolve the deficit over the long term without the draconian cuts of the Deficit Elimination Plan. Under a third option, a system of charter schools and traditional public schools would be created to replace the existing DPS. Additional options would blend aspects of all three plans.