Saving Detroit Public Schools

By: Meaghan M. Norman Email
By: Meaghan M. Norman Email

Deficit and depression -- that's how many describe the Detroit Public School System.

Robert Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager was assigned to dig it out of what's grown to a $327 million hole. He testified in Lansing on Wednesday asking for the state's help to avoid bankruptcy; but some lawmakers are skeptical about the state's responsibility to help save Detroit's Public School System.

"We can cut the deficit to zero but at the end of the day what would the school district look like?" asked Bobb.

Bobb has made layoffs, outsourced services, even closed schools. But also on his watch: the deficit grew by $100 million and enrollment is steadily declining. But he has a plan, he just need's the state's help. He's proposing that the state essentially co-sign Detroit's debt thereby giving them a shot at better repayment options.

"By enacting legislation, it wouldn't cost one dime," said Bobb. "Burden is not shifted to the state."

But Democratic and Republican lawmakers are still skeptical.

While there is no financial obligation passed on to taxpayers, there is risk, "You wouldn't come to us if there wasn't risk," said Rep Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills).

"Until we're able to stabilize the DPS system, we can't really talk about how children are educated," said Rep. Lisa Howze, (D-Detroit).

Lawmakers say the catastrophic problems that preceded Bobb should not be an excuse.

"When you're given a situation you need to be able to access it, own up to it and move from that point forward," said Rep. Howze.

Despite the deep hole that DPS has fallen into, Bobb remains optimistic.

"With the strong academic programs we've put in place, if those plans were to conitnue for some period of time, I actually believe this --- DPS will emerge within the next five years as one of the strongest public school systems in the nation," said Bobb.


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