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Detroit Ordered to Close Half Its Public Schools Amid Budget Crisis

Feb 22, 2011 – 12:00 PM
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Dana Chivvis

Dana Chivvis Contributor

The Detroit public school system has been ordered to close half its schools to make up for a $327 million deficit. The schools will be shuttered over the next four years, causing class sizes to bulge to 60.

The plan, mandated by state education officials, will reduce the number of schools in the district from 142 to 72.

Robert Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager, said he was preparing a list of recommended school closures and that layoffs would be announced closer to April, according to The Detroit News.

Tylan Franklin, 8, stands outside Bunche Elementary in Detroit, Wednesday, March 17, 2010. Doors are expected to shut on more than a quarter of Detroit's 172 public schools in June as the district fights through steadily declining enrollment and a budget deficit of more than $219 million, an emergency financial manager said Wednesday. Bunche is scheduled to close in June of 2010.  (Paul Sancya, AP)
Paul Sancya, AP
Tylan Franklin, 8, stands outside Bunche Elementary in Detroit on March 17. The school closed in June, and now Detroit has been ordered to close half its remaining 142 public schools over the next four years to make up a $327 million deficit.
But Bobb said he doesn't think the plan will be effective because it's likely to drive students out of the district, making the fiscal crisis worse. He expects the district's 74,000 students will have been reduced to 58,570 by 2014.

The Detroit school budget is weighed down with $53 million in pension costs, $45 million for health care and $27 million for utilities. The district has lost 83,336 students in the past 10 years, which translates to a loss of more than $573 million in funding, UPI reports.

Census figures on Detroit show a bleak reality. Incomes in the city are half the national average, and one third of the population is in poverty. Michigan's unemployment rate is 12 percent, and from 2000 to 2010, it was the only state in the country where population decreased.

Data released today shows that only 10 percent of the state's high school graduates this year are ready for college.
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