Thursday, May 14, 2009

Restructuring DPS

Big changes are coming to Detroit Public Schools -- and just in time. The News reports the district has now lost a shocking 44% of its enrollment since 2000 to charters, the suburbs, and other areas of the country.

On Tuesday, the state-appointed emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, announced the closing of 29 schools and the restructuring of 40 others deemed "miserably failing." On Wednesday, he took the unprecedented step of asking President Obama to issue a special emergency declaration to allow the district to receive emergency funding. (If granted, it would be the first emergency declaration not tied to a natural disaster.)

Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, has promised to send millions of dollars to the district if it pursues fundamental change. Speaking in the city on Wednesday, he called Detroit "ground zero" for education in the United States. "Detroit is New Orleans two years ago without Hurricane Katrina," he said, "and I feel a tremendous sense of both urgency and outrage." He supports copying the model used in Chicago and letting Mayor Dave Bing take control of the district.

Both can be heard on Wednesday's edition of Detroit Today. Also worth watching: Geoffrey Canada at the New Yorker Summit. Liberals and conservatives alike (see David Brooks, for example) have championed his Harlem Children's Zone as the single best model for fixing urban education -- something Bobb and Duncan are surely looking at.

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