Avoiding Disaster in Detroit Public Schools

by  necs2010

Last weekend Robert Bobb, the Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools, presented four different plans for restructuring DPS in order to make it financially sustainable, otherwise Bobb is going to be forced to close half the schools in the district forcing classroom sizes to skyrocket towards 60.

Ya hear me? 60 students in one class…

One of the plans Bobb presented was to transform DPS into a model that resembles post-Katrina New Orleans. His latest idea /model would lease 41 DPS buildings and their equipment to charter school operators, much like Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District in New Orleans, and in return to an estimated $75 to $99 million in savings to DPS. It would keep schools open and allow students to attend the same schools they were last year at the same time.

This model has begun to show that amazing things can happen in once-failing schools in New Orleans, although the ineffectiveness of some charters has gone unreported and questions remain about holding charters to high expectations. Can this be replicated in Detroit? A few questions I have, derived from the NOLA experience, going forward for Detroit:

  1. Unions will still exist under Bobb’s restructuring, unlike New Orleans post-Katrina. How will these meld with charter operators who traditionally dislike unions?
  2. What will be the level and how will  DPS and the State of Michigan hold DPS charters accountable? Will Bobb, Bing, the School Board be given authority to revoke charters when they underperform?
  3. “School leaders create change” has been the mantra behind the charter school movement. How much independence will charter school leaders be given in running their schools?
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