Snyder: Detroit education overhaul plan coming Thursday

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder intends to "roll out" his plan to overhaul education in Detroit on Thursday.

Snyder disclosed his intention to publicly detail his plans for Detroit Public Schools on Monday while speaking on a panel about the city of Detroit's recent bankruptcy at the Milken Institute's global conference in Los Angeles.

"Later this week, I'm actually going to roll out my recommendations to the state Legislature about how we can partner with the city on significant improvement in the educational system, the broad-based system for Detroit," Snyder said. "We are seeing improvements in a number of schools, but there's a lot more work to be done."

As Snyder finalizes his plan, which was delayed by a week, a leading municipal investment research firm warned Tuesday that DPS could be inching closer to following the city of Detroit through bankruptcy court.

Concord, Mass.-based Municipal Market Analytics said any effort by Snyder to split DPS into a two districts and leave behind operating debts in an old district "may well be the first step towards a Chapter 9 (bankruptcy) in which capital creditors are forced to take concessions."

"Despite what the governor might say, when you break an entity into a good and bad version of itself — old and new — typically good things don't follow," said Matt Fabian, a partner at Municipal Market Analytics. "It seems like it's a reasonable first step toward a solution that includes bankruptcy."

Snyder has repeatedly said he wants to avoid the bankruptcy option for Detroit's 47,238-student school system.

"I don't look at bankruptcy as really an option for the Detroit Public Schools," Snyder said recently.

Snyder spoke Monday on a panel at the Milken Institute conference with former Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and investment banker Ken Buckfire, who worked on Orr's bankruptcy restructuring team of consultants. The conference is an annual gathering of influential business and government leaders.

Chris Reynolds, chief legal officer of Toyota Motors North America and a native Detroiter, asked the governor about how he intended to turn around the city's troubled school system during a question-and-answer session with the audience.

"How can any city's fortunes be revived without a plan to fix the public school system?" asked Reynolds, a graduate of Detroit's Cass Tech High School. "I hear you say charter, but there aren't enough charter schools on the planet, so what's the plan for the public schools?"

"That's Thursday of this week," Snyder told Reynolds. "I hope that's a timely answer for you."

Snyder said schools, property taxes and reining in auto insurance rates remain "the biggest problems" in Detroit after the city shed $8.7 billion in debt in bankruptcy court in December.

"We've resolved the city ... the next layer is the education process, and that's going to get resolved," Snyder said.

In anticipation of Snyder's announcement on the future of DPS, the school district's 4,000-member teachers union plans to bus members to Lansing on Thursday for a protest at the Capitol.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers also is planning a Tuesday evening protest outside of the Cadillac Place state office building in Detroit's New Center.

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