Duggan 'very disappointed' with Snyder's DPS plan

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday that he's "very disappointed" with the governor's sweeping plans to reform Detroit Public Schools and doesn't want a part in it.

The plan, unveiled by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday, calls for the creation of a new debt-free Detroit public school district run by an appointed seven-member board and for the old district to stay in place solely to focus on paying off its debts of $483 million.

Snyder's proposal calls for Duggan to have a role in naming members to oversee the new district — the City of Detroit Education District — as well as a separate oversight commission. The mayor doesn't support it, nor the plan he says would pave the way for "permanent state control."

"I have no interest in that role," Duggan told The Detroit News. "I am very disappointed in this plan. In particular, that it basically creates long-term state control of local schools."

"State control of local schools is bad and it's been a failure in Detroit," added Duggan. "The state's been in control the last four years. It's been four years of deficits and poor performance."

"I think schools are much better managed under local control," the mayor said.

Snyder, during a news conference on the plan at Cadillac Place in the city's New Center area, said he'd let Duggan speak for himself, but hopes to get him on board.

Documents detailing the plan, note that having the governor and mayor make appointments to the boards and commissions would "ensure the best interest of the state and city are met and kept at the forefront."

The overall strategy promises a comprehensive, holistic approach that would address both the district's academic and financial struggles.

The governor is recommending the new school board be comprised of seven Detroit residents, four of whom will be appointed by Snyder and threeby Duggan.

Under the proposal, two of the board seats would be filled through an election in 2017, two more in 2019 and the remaining three in 2021, allowing the board to transition over time from appointed to elected.

Meanwhile, officials say a Financial Review Board will have oversight over the old and new districts for coordination and to ensure that financial strength is restored and maintained. That board will remain in place until the old district's debt has been eliminated.

Duggan said he's heard about the plan in general, but as far as the specifics he hadn't seen them: "I do not in any way support it."

But the governor has stressed the overhaul is needed to improve outcomes for Detroit children and relieve the district's debt load, which he called "crushing."

Some aspects of Snyder's plan would require changes in state law. He plans to work with partners in the Legislature and Detroit leaders on the effort. The legislation is expected to be introduced within two weeks.

For his part, Duggan says he's supported efforts of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren and will likely sit down with representatives of the group. He will also urge "folks in Lansing to objectively look at performance."

Duggan added he's sure he will be talking with Snyder, although he "certainly knows my feelings."

"There's no evidence that Lansing's performance made the schools anything but worse," he said. "I hope the Legislature will look at this and say 'we don't want Lansing running the school district.' There are lots of middle grounds that you could find. This isn't one of them."