No Pay Cuts, No Increased Class Sizes for Detroit Public Schools

In a move that eases a summer of stress for school employees, the Detroit Public School system will not experience class size increases, nor will there be a districtwide pay cut, according to emergency manager Jack Martin.

Jennifer Chambers of The Detroit News writes that Martin will ask the Michigan Department of Education to extend the district’s five-year deficit elimination plan to seven years and consider layoffs for non-classroom employees.  He also will request that the DOE look forward to revenue increases from future property sales and enrollment increases.

Martin decided on the reversal of plans because of complaints from teachers, parents, and the unexpected backlash of the state school superintendent.  The reversal is part of the district’s plan for eliminating its $127 million deficit, as well as a $53 million legacy debt. The deficit elimination plan, submitted to and approved by the DOE last week, was an effort to make up for the $18.5 million which would have come from a countywide school tax, but was rejected by voters at the beginning of the month.

The original increased class size and teacher pay cut plan would had produced $21.1 million in savings to the financially overwhelmed district.  The district’s deficit elimination plan that Martin originally proposed was a product of agonizing research and decision-making on his part.

“We did have to make a definitive statement about how we were going to reduce the deficit. … But we were actually planning to not have to make those cuts,” Martin said. “I think we have the support to roll it back.”

The changes will have to be approved by state education officials.  Superintendent Mike Flanagan has already stated that he is all for finding another way for the district to fix its fiscal problems.

Responding to the DPS announcement, Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said: “We won’t speculate on what the district may put in its actual revised deficit elimination plan other than to say we are committed to working with every district that finds itself in a deficit budget situation.”

The district’s budgeting plan included closing 24 schools between 2016 -2019. Martin hopes that by thinking long-term about the problems that exist, there will not even be a consideration of closing 24 schools, which would, he says, devastate the district.

The Graham Media Group reports that class sizes will remain at 25 for grades K-3 (these grade levels would not have been altered under the previous plan), 33 for grades 4 and 5, and 38 for grades 6 – 12.  Based on average daily attendance, DPS class sizes averaged only 16 students.  Reports add that the district has been under state control since 2009, at which time the deficit reached as high as $327 million. Now it is facing a $121.5 million deficit at the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

WXYZ  Detroit reports that there are other strategies being considered by the district including staff reductions through restructuring and process re-engineering efficiencies, the pursuit of additional grants and increasing stability by encouraging all employees to participate in the student 2014-15 Retain/Gain Enrollment Campaign.

Other positives moves on the part of the district include :

• No school closings this year for the first time in six years.

• The creation of a new gifted and talented school program

• Extension of the dual immersion bilingual programs into ninth grade

• Expansion of the career academy and the adult education programming

• Support of a K-12 International Baccalaureate program at Cass Tech

• The addition of an added prep period for K-8 teachers

• Expansion of programs for early childhood families

• Expansion of Pre-K opportunities

• Addition of Great Start Readiness Program seats

• Addition of new Title I classrooms

• Partnerships with two non-profit agencies to bring 0-5 programs into schools

• The expansion of art and music programs in elementary and middle schools

“We appreciate the support of our parents, partners, stakeholders and the media in rallying around Detroit Public Schools at this critical time to ensure the greater community is aware – and that they “see” and “believe” in — the great things happening at our schools,” Martin said.