DPSCD: $94.4 Million Settlement Finally Arrives for Detroit Public Schools

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer pledged the funds to address the allegations that the state had failed to provide Detroit schoolchildren with basic education, specifically in reading instruction.

DPSCD
DPSCD ( Photo: Chalkbeat Detroit )

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) is set to receive $94.4 million as part of a settlement reached in a 2016 lawsuit

The Democratic-controlled Legislature recently passed a $21.5 billion K-12 school aid budget, which includes the allocated funds, and Governor Whitmer is expected to sign it.

DPSCD officials have already presented proposals on how to utilize the money effectively. One plan is to hire academic interventionists who can provide personalized support to students struggling with reading. The goal is to address the long-standing literacy challenges faced by Detroit students, whose reading scores have consistently ranked among the lowest in the nation.

The lawsuit, originally filed as Gary B. v. Snyder but settled in 2020 as Gary B. v. Whitmer, accused the state of neglecting the education system by allowing poor building conditions, a shortage of learning materials, and underqualified teachers. While the settlement falls short of establishing a constitutional right to literacy, it awards financial compensation to the plaintiffs and the district. It also mandates Governor Whitmer to propose legislation for additional funding to support literacy efforts.

Although some argue that the $94.4 million is insufficient considering the extensive needs outlined in the lawsuit, DPSCD has managed to leverage federal COVID relief aid to address building repairs and implement a $700 million facility plan. Consequently, the settlement funds can be directed toward other pressing priorities. These include hiring contracted nurses, providing staff bonuses to reduce teacher turnover, and sustaining summer school and after-school programs previously supported by COVID relief aid.

The settlement also establishes two task forces the Detroit Literacy Equity Task Force and the Detroit Education Policy Committee to address literacy and educational challenges in Detroit

The literacy task force will evaluate Detroit‘s literacy levels annually, provide policy recommendations to the governor, and offer guidance on the utilization of the settlement funds. The educational policy committee, overseen by the Community Education Commission, will make recommendations to improve Detroit’s education system.

DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has already outlined some strategies for spending the settlement money, which align with evidence-based literacy strategies. These strategies include hiring more academic interventionists, enhancing literacy support for high school students, and expanding teacher training to assist students below the reading level. Vitti stressed that even after the settlement funds are spent, alternative funding sources will be sought to sustain academic interventionist positions.

Community input is a significant aspect of the settlement, and the task force is required to host six public meetings to gather input on spending priorities. DPSCD will also organize a community meeting to discuss its spending plan, which will undergo scrutiny by the school board’s academic and finance committees before final approval. With the aim of utilizing the funds efficiently, DPSCD plans to consider the task force’s recommendations and potentially implement them in the 2023-24 budget amendment.

 

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