DPS enrollment dips but tops projection

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Detroit Public Schools’ enrollment is down again this fall, but the district exceeded its budget projection and says it has slowed the rate of decline from previous years.

The state’s largest district has 47,238.22 full-time equivalent students, DPS spokesman Steve Wasko said. Last school year, the district had 49,870 students, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education. The fall 2014 figure is unaudited.

“That may change slightly before tomorrow’s certification, but we don’t suspect that would be by a great number,” Wasko said Tuesday. “That preliminary number would put Detroit Public Schools on track to surpass its budgeted enrollment target of 47,189 by nearly 50 students, and to surpass the demographer’s projection by more than 1,079 students, or 2.3 percent.”

It is “the second year that the district has changed the long-term trend of annual enrollment declines exceeding 10 percent or more,” Wasko said.

The Detroit district once had more than 300,000 students and had nearly 90,000 five years ago. The district’s shrinking enrollment has complicated efforts to eliminate persistent deficits because fewer students means less per-pupil aid from the state. Under state control since March 2009, DPS had a deficit of $127 million as of June 2014, according to state data.

Over the summer, the district submitted a deficit reduction plan to the state that called for reducing the shortfall to $121 million, partly by cutting employee pay 10 percent. But after a backlash from teachers, DPS canceled the pay cut and said it would submit a revised plan.

The state gave the district a Nov. 6 deadline, but DPS asked last week for an extension until Dec. 10. Wasko said Tuesday the district has not received a response from the state Department of Education.