Victor Skinner, EAGNEWS.org
DETROIT – The perpetually broke Detroit Public Schools is planning on launching a new dual-language Arabic technical school for prekindergarten through second graders.
The new Arabic Dual Language Immersion and Technical Academy does not yet have an official opening date, but it’s part of an ambitious plan to launch three new school programs in a district with a roughly $236 million deficit and declining enrollment, the Detroit Free Press reports.
According to the news site, “DPS is expected to have an accumulated operating deficit of $263.8 million at the end of June. That’s better than expected – officials last year were projecting a $312.9 million deficit.
“Cuts of central office staff and a reduction in the budget of about 360 positions, about half of which were unfilled teaching vacancies, contributed to a deficit decline, said Marios Demtriou, the district’s deputy superintendent of finance and operations.”
DPS is also hemorrhaging students, though not at the same pace as it has in the past. A “Financial and Operating Plan” issued April 15 by district’s state-appointed emergency manager Steven Rhodes – the fifth since the district was taken over by the state in 2009 – shows enrollment is only down between 1 and 2 percent over the last three years, as opposed to much higher figures in the past, according to the report.
Rhodes wrote in a news release Monday that the news schools suggested in the operating plan are designed to attract students to the district, according to Michigan Radio.
“To further enhance enrollment in DPS, we solicited from our educators proposals to raise academic achievement levels, serve diverse communities and increase enrollment,” he wrote. “We received over three dozen such proposals, 12 of which will be implemented. These include the city’s first Montessori school, an Arabic immersion technical school, and a refocus on using technology to enhance learning.”
The report also acknowledges the district’s ongoing struggles, both academic and financial.
“Although improving, overall DPS education outcomes are inadequate,” according to the report. “DPS must do a better job of preparing students for a successful college education or technical career.”
A different district report on student performance shows that on a whole, the percentage of DPS students who met expectations on 2015 state standardized tests was a mere 2.9 percent for science, 7.9 percent for math, 8.1 percent for social studies, and 14.6 percent for English.
The more recent Financial and Operating Plan also shows that the U.S. Department of Education claims the district owes the federal government between $25 million and $30 million in overpayment for grants.
Detroit residents are invited to discuss the plan at a meeting set for 5 p.m. May 10 at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, the Free Press reports.
In the meantime, state lawmakers are contemplating legislation introduced last month to spend $720 million to supposedly fix DPS’ financial mess for good. The legislation passed the state Senate, and is currently under consideration in the House.
“Realistically, the legislature needs to complete its work by mid-June in order for the relief that it would offer to be effective for the coming school year,” Rhodes wrote in his operating plan. “The alternative is another year, or more, of increasing deficits and debt, and more yearly requests for supplemental appropriations.”