News Story

Michigan Democrats Vote to Give Detroit Schools Money for Students Who Don't Go There

Budget amendment had full support of Democratic Senate

If Democrats in the Michigan Senate had gotten their way on May 3, the Detroit Public Schools Community District might have a new source of revenue next year: state money for students no longer enrolled there.

When the Senate took up its version of next year’s K-12 school funding budget, Sen. Coleman Young, II, D-Detroit, offered an amendment. It would have let the Detroit school district keep the balance of the annual school aid payments it gets from the state for each child enrolled in a district school, even if the school closes and the child ends up attending a different school district.

In other words, the state would make double payments for each child – one sent to the Detroit school district and another to the district the child is actually attending. The measure would have been for just the 2017-18 school year, and the duplicate payments would only apply to children who left the district because the building they attended had closed.

That would have meant that the Detroit Public Schools Community District would get to keep the full $7,552 annual foundation allowance that currently follows each Detroit student who leaves a closed school for another district.

The amendment failed on a 27-11 party line vote.

Young didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

On April 28, the Michigan Department of Education reached a performance improvement agreement with the Detroit Public Schools Community District to avoid closing 24 of its schools that were among the worst-performing in the state. The agreement lasts through 2020 and contains a number of performance milestones and deadlines.

But it also authorizes many exceptions and extensions, so it is highly unlikely those failed schools would be closed in the 2017-18 fiscal year. Missing a deadline would require the school and its partners in the agreement, including Wayne RESA and the Michigan Department of Education, to act. They would, under the agreement, “evaluate the degree and underlying causes of the shortfall, and working with the Implementation and Accountability Team, shall implement one or more of the following curative actions for that Partnership School.”

The agreement lists a series of “curative actions,” with the following consequence if they effect no cure: “If the curative actions are not successful, then the process shall be repeated with an increasing level of intervention.” The agreement doesn't allow the state to close any of the schools.

Detroit schools have experienced a student exodus of monumental proportions over the past two decades, and it is continuing. Enrollment has fallen from 112,131 students as recently as 2007 to 46,300 students in 2016. During the spring 2017 count, Detroit’s enrollment dropped again, to 44,669.

From 2007 to 2016, the number of neighborhood schools operated by the district declined from 225 to 75. The district lost an estimated 65,800 students over those nine years.

The state of Michigan has never closed a Detroit public school due to academics. But many have closed due to the student exodus, and some charter schools in the city have been closed for academic reasons.