DETROIT – Detroit Public Schools would close 23 schools and lay off 600 teachers in a proposal released Thursday that would consolidate facilities in a shrinking district facing a projected $303 million deficit.
The proposal was made by the state’s financial overseer, Robert Bobb, who also has asked the state for $200 million in federal stimulus funds to improve the remaining schools and strengthen safety and security.
A financial emergency has been declared for the district, which has been struggling for years with declining enrollment as the city’s population shrinks and charter schools draw students. The superintendent was fired in December and Gov. Jennifer Granholm named Bobb the district’s emergency financial manager the following month.
The 192-school system has about 5,700 teachers and an enrollment of more than 95,000; it had nearly twice as many students in the late 1990s. About 7,500 students would have to change schools under the new proposal.
Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said Bobb’s plan appears to be a move in the right direction for the district’s long-term health.
“He’s going to make sure teachers are equipped with the materials that they need,” Johnson said.
Michigan Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said the state was reviewing Bobb’s request for $200 million to see what might be available. He said there was no timeline for a decision.
Without the federal stimulus funds, Bobb said he would use $26 million from a previous bond issue to get some of the needed work done.
The first of a series of town hall meetings for the public on the restructuring plan is scheduled for April 28, and the district is expected to make a final decision May 8. Bobb said some of the laid-off teachers could return, but another round of potential school closings will be announced this summer.
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