Move to limit school choice at East Detroit reversed

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Eastpointe — Moved by the outcry from more than 200 teachers and union members, the East Detroit Public Schools board voted to reverse a decision to restrict enrollment to students only from the county.

The move to reopen the enrollment means students from surrounding counties can continue to join the district under the state Schools of Choice program, which is “significant,” said Craig Brozowski, school board president.

“We have a very migratory community here … so for us to be able to attract them, it’s a positive step forward,” he said.

“It makes quite a difference in our funding.”

Without the dollars those students provided, projections showed the district could have lost at least $850,000, said Lincoln Stocks, president at the East Detroit Federation of Teachers union.

Earlier, scores of teachers and supporters — including those from the American Federation of Teachers and Detroit Federation of Teachers unions — gathered outside City Hall, where the school board met on Monday.

Chanting and carrying signs with messages such as “Professional work deserves professional treatment and professional pay,” the demonstrators aimed to show that losing revenue from Schools of Choice affects the classroom since there’s less money for instruction as well as programs.

“That impacts every student in the district,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, while standing among the demonstrators.

Josh Schutz, who works for the district, said a lack of Schools of Choice students starts “a death spiral” of declining funds. “Mathematically, the district doesn’t survive without them,” he said.

Now that the decision is reversed, Stocks said, “It certainly allows us to sit down and resume the process of negotiating a gradual return to normalcy.”

Stocks said teachers had been working without a renewed contract for two years and had faced a 24.5 percent wage cut.

The teachers had said the decision this year to drop the Schools of Choice option meant the district was giving up per-pupil revenue that could be used to roll back concessions the union approved to help close its deficit.

Teachers with the union said they made concessions to help stabilize district finances. But, they said before a school board meeting, if the district’s finances are no longer as dire, and the dollars from Schools of Choice students weren’t needed anymore, the cuts should be restored.

“To move forward, we must restore stability to the buildings,” Stocks told the school board Monday. “The most significant way to do that is to stabilize staff.”