Detroit Public Schools to Self-Govern for Upcoming Year

The district revealed a 2012-13 action plan to give schools more independence over hiring, curriculum and budget. 

Posted: 04/05/2012 12:20 PM EDT

In an emergency move to make more money and become a smaller system of autonomous schools, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has announced it will allow 10 high schools to self-govern. The system will also sell central office functions such as food services to schools throughout the region.

The decision revealed Wednesday by Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency manager, stemmed from the reality that only 1.2 percent of DPS graduates are college ready, 45,000 children in Detroit attend charter schools outside the District and the fact that the district holds a $83.9 million deficit.

Under the new plan, 10 self-governing high schools will make their own decisions about hiring, curriculum and budget. The schools will have a five-person governing council comprised of a business partner, parent and three others selected by DPS. They will also receive 100 percent of their federal grant funds and a redesigned central office will offer fee-based services to the schools.

"Every time I pick a school and make it a charter school, I take away my ability to pay off the deficit. So I said, 'Why don't you create schools that are charter-esque?'" Roberts told the Detroit News.

DPS is expected to have approximately 50,000 students for the upcoming 2012-13 school year. It is the state’s largest school district, but it has lost about 100,000 students over the past decade. Next year, DPS will shrink to 87 buildings after it closes 16 buildings, charters two schools and transfers 15 schools to the statewide Education Achievement Authority school system.

Despite the movement, transferring responsibility to schools could be helpful to students. Support services will be increased within the school, and schools will have the ability to control their own finances. In addition, DPS families will be able to choose from 86 direct-run traditional schools, 16 district-authorized charter schools and the 10 self-governing schools, who will be required to sign a performance contract with certain provisions, including a pledge for a 99 percent graduation rate.

"We support innovative, performance-based education models that accelerate student achievement and success," Mike Flanagan, state superintendent of public instruction said. "This model would allow students to stay in their neighborhood schools, drive achievement and provide direct input and accountability for parents, local business leaders and the community."

The schools in the program are not among the lowest-performing schools at DPS and Roberts says the change is a part of giving the community “what they want.”  

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(Photo: The Washington Times/Landov)