Highland Park, GLWA strike deal trying to buy time for final settlement

Our Editorial: Lawmakers must address DPS now

The Detroit News

The growing disaster that is Detroit Public Schools is catching the attention of city and state leaders, and gaining traction on the national news. And the long-awaited legislation to address the district’s financial shortfalls and governance is expected as early as today. Those bills should start the conversation on restructuring DPS in earnest.

There is no excuse for the illegal teacher strikes that have closed dozens of schools in the past week. And lawmakers should make it clear any legislation is not a reward for such bad behavior. More than half of Detroit’s school were closed Monday and closures have continued throughout the week.

The strikes, spearheaded by ousted Detroit Federation of Teachers’ president Steve Conn, may backfire.

Conn and his supporters are striking in part to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to split the district in two, separating more than $500 million in debt from a new district that could focus on students. Snyder is also advocating additional layers of governance to accompany the state investment.

What also has spurred the sickouts are teacher complaints of unsafe and unclean schools. Those are concerns the state and city must take seriously.

Teachers got Mayor Mike Duggan to tour some buildings on Tuesday, and he saw a dead mouse on a trap, in addition to some leaky rooms and shivering students.

No child should have to spend time in these conditions, nor staff, and Duggan was right to be upset. The city does not have direct control over schools, but the mayor said he would enforce health and safety inspections of the buildings. He should.

But the state of the schools is also a testament to the fact the district is on the brink of insolvency. It’s expected to run out of money by April if the Legislature doesn’t act now.

Duggan, who previously withheld endorsement of Snyder’s plans for DPS, made a call on Wednesday for that legislation. And the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren has renewed its push for lawmakers to act.

The debt and the glaring issues with DPS will not go away on their own. Emergency managers, who have run the district since 2009, have been unable to make the district solvent.

Lawmakers must now step up and find a better fix for Detroit’s schools.