Snyder: Give me Detroit school fix-up ideas in March

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder wants a coalition of Detroit education, civic, business, religious and community leaders to deliver recommendations on improving public education in the city to him in March so they can be developed into legislation.

Snyder said Wednesday he has asked the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren for new ideas on raising learning achievement standards and better coordinating education within the city's patchwork of public schools. The Detroit-based Skillman Foundation is leading the coalition.

"I would like to have the opportunity then to look at their work and potentially ask for legislation in the first half of the year," Snyder said after an event highlighting skilled trades jobs at a manufacturing plant in Lansing.

A week after appointing Darnell Earley as the fourth emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools since 2009, Snyder discussed the challenges facing public education in Detroit during his annual State of the State address Tuesday night.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Snyder said there's an "uncoordinated education environment' in Detroit, with DPS, charter schools and the Education Achievement Authority all competing for students and state funding. Snyder was instrumental in creating the EAA, which manages 15 former DPS schools that had persistently been failing academically.

"It's an environment that's not creating success for our students," Snyder said Tuesday.

Snyder told lawmakers he wants to pursue a legislative solution that can "bring more structure and more thoughtfulness to deal with these challenged situations."

The governor said Wednesday he met with members of the coalition last week. Snyder said the group is studying whether the array of school choices in Detroit outpaces demand after years of population loss.

"Let's raise the bar because the students deserve better choices," Snyder told reporters. "But when we raise that bar, let's raise it evenly and equally."

The governor's update comes as the coalition is expanding its steering committee to 36 members. The group is adding five members to "increase professional diversity, better represent the business sector and add financial expertise to deal with DPS debt-related questions," according to a release from the Skillman Foundation.

The new members are Charlie Beckham, group executive director for neighborhoods with the city of Detroit; David Carroll, vice president of Quicken Loans; Richard DeVore, regional president of Detroit & Southeast Michigan at PNC Financial Services Group; Clark Durant, co-founder and former CEO of Cornerstone Schools; and Faye Nelson, president of the DTE Energy Foundation and vice president of public affairs at DTE.

Created last month, the coalition gave itself a March 31 deadline to develop recommendations for improving education in Detroit. Challenges include closing a nearly $170 million deficit in DPS and resolving the future of the EAA. Legislation to expand the state-run district for failing schools has stalled.

"This coalition is working hard to represent all facets of the community, because how our city educates its children affects us all," said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan and one of five co-chairs. "We need solid input from the business community, which has a major stake in this effort because these children represent the future workforce, and the system of schools is a major factor in recruiting new talent to the city of Detroit."

The group's work comes amid debate over proposals to overhaul education in Detroit.

In November, a report commissioned by the Skillman Foundation urged that Mayor Mike Duggan lead a common enrollment system for all city public and charter schools.

In August, Excellent Schools Detroit proposed giving the mayor oversight of all public schools in the city, including charters. Duggan said in November he did not think the mayor should run the schools but was open to a common enrollment system.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood