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DPS plans "draconian" cuts to eliminate deficit

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The Michigan Department of Education has ordered the DPS to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan

The state Department of Education has ordered the Detroit Public Schools to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan.

The plan includes closing half the district’s remaining schools within two years, and increasing some class sizes to 60 students by next school year. It would also create "regional" prinicpals rather than school principals, and cut transportation services for most students.

Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb created the plan to zero out the district’s $327-million deficit. But even Bobb has called the plan “draconian.”

 Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson says putting sixty students  in a classroom would “completely destroy” any opportunities for teaching or learning.

“As a result, our classrooms would be relegated to holding pens. And no learning would take place. And this I believe would further drive students away from DPS.”

Johnson says the proposal also violates the teachers’ current contract, which caps high school class size at 35 students. 

DPS spokesman Steve Wasko says Bobb acknowledges those kinds of conditions won't be good for students. But he says the law forces Bobb to begin implementing the cuts:

“However, we continue to work diligently toward a more longer-term transformational solution…so we would not have to implement all of these measures.”

Wasko says the state could assume the district’s deficit in exchange for strict academic reforms, or put it through a kind of corporate-style restructuring. Those ideas have yet to gain any traction in the state legislature. 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.