Repairing Detroit schools must be legislative priority

Detroit_Public_Schools_logoEverybody keeps saying it, but nothing ever seems to get done about it.
Caught up in the gears of all the fevered excitement and joy (in some circles) where discussion breathlessly revolves around how Detroit is coming back with a vengeance and how Oh Isn’t It Wonderful? there remains that whispered, obligatory commentary that Detroit cannot ever truly claim to be on the road to a comeback until something is done about Detroit Public Schools.
In other words, how long will we ignore the needs of our own children? Because until we have provided them with the educational options that they deserve, the options that will provide them access to the quality of life that all parents want for their children, then nothing substantive has really changed at all. Because our children are the foundation for Detroit’s future, and if the foundation is shaky then nothing Detroit tries to build on top will stand for long.
Gov. Snyder has been trying for months to push through legislation that would require the rest of the state to chip in and help pay off more than $700 million over the next 10 years to retire an out-of-control deficit and help put DPS back on track. Asking the state to step up and help retire the deficit that the state is in large part responsible for after more than a decade of state-imposed emergency management actually seems like a step in the right direction – a big step – which is probably why the Michigan legislature shook their heads when asked to do anything at all that might help ‘them down there’ in Detroit. It may not be perfect, but at least Gov. Snyder is trying to do something for Detroit schools. His Republican colleagues appear as if they couldn’t care less whether Detroit kids sink or swim.
Snyder is also considering the possibility that maybe, just maybe, that EAA of his needs to be scrapped. Although the governor’s intentions in creating the EAA may have been honorable insofar as he refused to stand by and do nothing, it is becoming apparent that the EAA may be too damaged a vessel to be repaired. Since he has finally agreed to consider the benefit of returning the vote to Detroiters, allowing them to elect their own school board members once again, Snyder should disband the EAA so that all – not just some – of Detroit Public Schools can once again be governed by a democratically elected school board.
Time will tell, but one thing is certain, namely that Gov. Snyder’s hoped-for outcome of having an approved plan for upgrading DPS before the end of 2016 is dead. Who knows when anything will happen now. But then again, consider this from Ingrid Jacques of the Detroit News:
“Bankruptcy is doomsday scenario on several levels. First, it would trigger the calling-in of more than $2 billion in capital and operational DPS debt. It’s possible the obligation would come due all at once, and since much of the debt can be tied to the state, it could sink the budget.”
In other words, the debt scenario is so serious that if Snyder’s plan, or SOMEBODY’S plan, isn’t adopted soon, as in before the end of next year, then bankruptcy becomes the only option. And bankruptcy would put the state on the hook for all that debt that they are trying to run away from, even though the state is largely responsible for most – if not all – of that debt in the first place since it accrued under the watch of state-appointed emergency management.
Which means, in the end, that a solution will likely be forced on the state, one way or the other. Which might just be the hand Gov. Snyder is now playing – the waiting game. HIs recalcitrant Republican colleagues may have to return to the table sooner rather than later.


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