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Duggan Revives One Detroit School Panel Bid

Ingrid Jacques, The Detroit News,  May 31, 2017 

A year after he was rebuffed by the Legislature, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is working to revive his idea for fixing the city’s broken education system. The mayor is going back to lawmakers asking for a Detroit education commission to coordinate all city schools, both charter and traditional.

Duggan says he’s received positive signals that lawmakers will take up a new proposal this fall, after they’ve worked through the two other priorities on the city’s agenda — auto insurance and tax collection.

In an interview with The Detroit News Wednesday, Duggan expressed his frustration that education in the city will not improve without a traffic cop to ensure every student has access to a quality school, close to home.

“Choice in the city is terrible,” he says. “It comes right back to the DEC. The whole point of the DEC was to develop quality schools, both DPS and charter. Until we get a DEC, you are going to see this cycle continue. Every morning 30,000 Detroit kids get up and go to school in the suburbs.”

Duggan lobbied fiercely last year for the education commission, which he says would have offered a framework to encourage growth of quality schools, while forcing out the failing ones. He sees it as a tool that would drive active development of more seats in quality schools.

Gov. Rick Snyder supported the measure, as did many Democratic and Republican lawmakers and the city’s business community. Snyder backed a commission starting in 2015, although it morphed into something quite different by the final legislation. It was envisioned as a seven-member board that could oversee school openings and location, as well as provide criteria used to close schools.

“There are a lot of people on both sides of the aisle who regret that the DEC didn’t pass,” says Duggan, who has spoken to a range of stakeholders, including some “prominent Republicans.”

“A lot of legislators have told me they made a mistake in voting that bill down.”

But charter and school choice advocates prevailed, with significant funding from the DeVos-family supported Great Lakes Education Project. Opponents raised concerns about one commission appointed by the mayor with that much control over how schools would open and operate. Legislative leaders left the DEC out of the bailout legislation to garner the final support they needed.

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