Detroit to Close Half Its Schools
Michigan State education officials have ordered Detroit Public Schools, which has 74,000 students, to immediately implement a plan that balances the district’s books by closing 70 of its 142 schools. The financial restructuring plan increase high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidate operations.
As another cost cutting measure, Republican State Sen. Phil Pavlov has also proposed a bill that would give the district the power to cancel government or teacher union contracts. DPS spends nearly two-thirds of its budget on personnel costs.
Supporters of these drastic measures say it will wipe out the district’s $327 million deficit by 2014. Unfortunately, Detroit has been the hardest hit city in the country by the economic downturn. Detroit’s tax revenue base has fallen sharply, and many of the biggest cuts in the general budget has been to schools. 8,000 students leave the district per year.
Memphis Inner City Schools to Merge with Suburbs?
Last December, The Memphis City Schools board voted to surrender its charter and turn over control to Shelby County’s system, which includes public schools outside the city limits. Proponents believe that this move will increase the quality of education for Memphis students. The Memphis district is poorly rated by the state, earning D’s and F’s from the state in important categories. The Shelby County System received all A’s. Many argue this is due to a gross budget disparity between the two districts: The Memphis 2010-2011 budget is $890 million to cover 103,000 students (85 percent of whom are black). The Shelby County system, which has 47,000-students (38 percent black), has a budget of more than $363 million.
The Shelby County System has rejected the proposed merger, claiming the creation of one huge district will overstretch resources, possibly leading to job cuts among non-tenured teachers, janitors and cafeteria workers. Schools that are operating under capacity could be closed. They claim instead of quality of education going up for those in Memphis, instead overall quality would go down for all students. With poorer education, many affluent Shelby suburban residents would move to other districts, lowering the revenue for Shelby’s district and creating new budget woes.
Those supporting the merger believe these claims are bogus and the real reason Shelby is blockading the merger is racism. An election is scheduled on March 8 where Memphis voters only (not Shelby County) decide the fate of the merger, however, litigation is pending to stop the vote. This fight continues to escalate, and State and Federal lawmakers are also getting involved.
Please tell us what you think! Are either one of these solutions to deficit problems viable? Or will it make the problems worse?
Written by Christi Grab, Parentella’s Editorial Director and author of The Unexpected Circumnavigation: Unusual Boat, Unusual People Part 1 – San Diego to Australia.
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