Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Detroit Public Schools to Receive Help from Governor's Team

Yesterday, Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, announced a plan that could enable the struggling Detroit Public School system to get a grip on its spiraling debt problems.

The district, which is currently $48 million in the red, has been run by a state-appointed Board for the last four years. Under its supervision, numerous complaints from DPS students and their parents have been made, citing crowded classrooms and a lack of textbooks for pupils. More recently, the public learned of the massive deficit that the Board has created during the short time it has been overseeing the school district.

After shooting down the highly-controversial Proposal E in the November election, Detroit citizens have made it clear that they want the power of the district to rest with a school board that they elect. However, with such a large deficit, as well as the negative track record of previous boards, Granholm has been thrust into a difficult situation. Unfortunately, the situation has gotten uglier by the day; just recently, the state's Superintendent of Instruction called upon DPS to submit two- and five-year action plans for alleviating its financial crisis, both of which are due at the end of this calendar year.

With compliance deadlines looming and a loyal public looking for her support, the governor has been forced to examine alternative measures that could assist the district in meeting its goals, while not snatching away the citizens' desire to elect its own board. Yesterday afternoon in a public press conference, Granholm announced one of these alternatives: to create a special team to assist the district during its time of need.

Although she was vague in reference to possible team members, the governor did make it clear that she envisions a team of experts made up of individuals from a broad array of professions.

Granholm also noted that she is seeking flexibility with the December 31 deadline that Tom Watkins, Michigan's Superintendent of Instruction, imposed for receipt of the district's two- and five-year budget plans. She also added that refinancing the district's debt is an option to create immediate cash flow, although she does not believe that it will be a long-term solution.