Bankrupt Detroit Still Refuses Property Sales to Charter Schools

Four days after bankruptcy approved, Duggan banned sales

Within a week of a federal bankruptcy judge confirming the final amendment to a $6.8 billion city of Detroit bankruptcy plan in 2014, Mayor Michael Duggan approved a ban passed by the city council on selling $11 million worth of city-owned property to any charter school located within one mile of an existing Detroit school district school. The property that the city acquired from Detroit Public Schools included 53 closed school buildings.

Not just the plan but its timing raises additional questions about Duggan’s role in a Detroit school district bailout bill passed by the state Senate last month, which would ration charter schools in the city. Duggan signed the city council resolution Nov. 18, 2014, which was just four days after the bankruptcy court’s approval.

John Roach, the mayor's spokesman, didn’t return an email seeking comment.

“This is collusion between two self-interested power brokers,” said Leon Drolet, the chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance.

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The Detroit City Council and mayor have allied themselves with the politically active employees of Detroit Public Schools, Drolet said. This explains why the city government would compromise its own financial position, which could have been improved by selling those properties to pay back some debt. Instead, Drolet said, the mayor and council worked together to protect the school district’s bureaucracy.

“They’ve been clear from the outset that their priorities are to protect their special interest groups. The public school monopoly is part of their political power base. Kids don’t vote,” he said.

The city took the abandoned Detroit Public School buildings as part of a deal to allow DPS to pay off its debt to the city for unpaid charges and fees. The deal also included 19 vacant lots and several other parcels for a total of 77 properties owned by the school district.

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