The Detroit Public Schools will open next fall with 29 fewer schools as part of efforts by the district’s state-appointed emergency financial manager to cut into a budget deficit.
In addition, 40 other schools Robert Bobb said were “miserably failing” the troubled district’s students face restructuring.
Tuesday’s announcement featured some of Bobb’s strongest language since taking over the district’s finances in January.
“The fact is, we have over $300 million in deficit,” Bobb said during a news conference. “These are real dollars. There is a real financial crisis in the Detroit Public Schools.
“None of us want to see any of our schools closed. But at the end of the day, (if) we don’t bring this school district out of the financial deficit it finds itself in, we will do a significant disservice to every student, to every family in this school system.”
The closures are expected to save $14 million annually beginning with the 2010-2011 budget.
Some groups are planning a march and rally Wednesday to protest the closings.
Detroit schools are considered among the most poorly run in the nation, suffering through years of chronic mismanagement of funds and resources. Earlier this month, Bobb said the district would sell $169 million in state aid notes to help meet payroll and other obligations over the next several months.
He has appointed a former FBI agent to investigate and audit waste, fraud or abuse throughout the district.
President Barack Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who previously said that he was “extraordinarily concerned about the poor quality of education” Detroit students receive and loses sleep over it, even has called for a mayoral takeover of the school system.
Duncan is scheduled to attend an educational forum Wednesday morning at Detroit’s Cody High School. Detroit is the second stop on Duncan’s national “Listening and Learning Tour.”
Enrollment continues to fall, reducing the amount of per-pupil aid it gets from the state. The district also routinely scores low in national, standardized tests and has a mediocre graduation rate.
Improving student achievement is the “number one goal” of his changes, Bobb said.
“We will be an advocate for the students of this school district ... and no adult from no sector of the community is going to stand in our way,” he said.
Bobb’s announcement came after weeks of study and a number of community meetings. Bobb already has said he wants to lay off 600 teachers.
On Tuesday, Bobb said the work of more than 700 school administrators also has been analyzed. A national search will be conducted to attract new leadership at some schools, he added.
The state stepped in last year when the district violated a consent agreement by failing to submit a revised plan to eliminate its deficit.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Bobb in January to assume all financial authority in the district.
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