June 20, 2014 at 11:34 pm

DPS plans bigger classes, but won't close schools amid $49M loss in revenue

Detroit— Detroit Public Schools are projecting a $49 million drop in revenue in the next fiscal year, larger classrooms and fewer administration employees.

Still, there will be no school closings — the first time that has happened in six years, DPS officials said Friday. And no teaching positions will be cut.

The budget projects a student enrollment of 47,750, down about 2 percent. This past school year, the district had 49,011 students, DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said.

Even with the $49.3 million shortfall, the deficit is expected to drop from the current $127 million to $125 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget. Officials do not expect the district to show a positive fund balance until the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Wasko said the decline was due to the district receiving less grant money than expected.

“When the original FY 2014 budget was developed in June 2013, there were certain assumptions made that some expenditures would be charged to various grants,” he said. “However, in December 2013, the district received final grant allocations that were millions of dollars less than what was budgeted and anticipated.”

Thus, “the general fund was required to absorb the expenditure charges without having planned to do so.”

Other factors contributing to the deficit include general fund charge-backs for planned grant expenses in middle school instruction and special education services; Medicaid services overpayment from the previous year; increases in rates from the Detroit Public Lighting and Detroit Water and Sewerage departments; and added campus security.

Forty-one full-time positions will be eliminated and classroom sizes will increase. In grades 4-12, five more students will be added to classes, bringing the totals to 38 in grades 4-5 and 43 in grades 6-8. Class size of 25 remains constant in grades K-3.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said classroom size must adhere to the contract.

“We have a contractual limit on classroom size and we intend to enforce it,” he said.

Wasko said no teaching or school-based staff positions will be eliminated.

“All of the positions were in central administration,” he said. “The job classifications ranged from executive directors to clerical staff who were in human resources, finance, curriculum, facilities, etc.

“Over the last two to three years the district has reduced these types of positions by approximately 25 to 30 percent.”

He said for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the percentage reduction is a little over 10 percent.

The district has been faced with budgetary and financial challenges since 2006, ranging from a high of $327 million to a low of $76.5 million. It is under the direction of Emergency Manager Jack Martin. Once a district of more than 300,000 students, DPS has seen student numbers plummet along with the city’s population. It also has seen a growing number of charter schools and academies siphon off students.

In 2012, 15 of the state’s lowest performing schools, all in Detroit, were transferred to the state-run Education Achievement Authority, which was formed the previous year. The transfer further drained students and state funding from the public school district.

“In Detroit’s recent history, there has never been a time when marketplace, technological, social, housing, employment and economic trends shifted at the rate of change witnessed during the past several years,” Martin said in a statement. “Detroit Public Schools is poised to become a driving force for accelerated positive growth in the city, region and its schools.”

Other plans laid out in the budget include:

■Extending dual immersion bilingual programs into a ninth grade collegiate prep setting.

■Expanding career academy and adult educational regional center programming.

■Supporting a K-12 International Baccalaureate program.

■An additional prep period for K-8 teachers.

■Programs for early childhood families, through reorganizing current programs and securing private and foundation support.

■Launch of a gifted and talented program.

Other adjustments for the year’s planning include a $50 annual increase in foundation allowance from the state of $2.2 million; an increase in the sale of capital assets for $11.7 million and a revenue enhancement millage for $14.8 million.

Expenditures include savings of $4.4 million through reorganization and technology implementation, saving $5.8 million in employee severance plan and restructured health are benefits savings of $13.3 million.

slewis@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2296