DETROIT — Members of the Detroit Caucus met with Gov. Rick Snyder yesterday to discuss issues related to the School Reform Office, which distributed a letter earlier this year warning parents and administrators that their schools were slated for closure at the end of the year. Detroit Caucus members and other legislators have advocated aggressively to prevent the closures, which would place a significant burden on families across the state.
“It was a positive meeting, and we were all very appreciative for the opportunity to provide feedback and offer positive solutions,” said state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), chairwoman of the caucus. “We’re not just advocating for Detroit’s kids; we’re fighting for everyone, especially children impacted by poverty both in traditional public and charter schools, so we have to move solutions forward to improve academic outcomes for all children. These kinds of partnerships are important because they not only help to stabilize Detroit’s educational landscape, but they allow us to better protect and advocate for children and families across the state.”
“Having an open dialogue with the governor is an important first step in ensuring that the voices of Detroit’s parents, students and teachers are heard,” said state Rep. Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit), secretary of the caucus. “When the SRO letter first went out in January, we had a lot of frantic parents and a lot of confused kids, and it’s taken some time to sort through the chaos and frustration. These conversations are crucial to forward progress in our advocacy for these schools. The Detroit Caucus will continue fighting to protect our neighborhoods and communities, and to ensure that every student in the state has equal access to a quality education, close to home.”
During their meeting with the governor, Detroit Caucus members recommended four key reforms that would add much-needed transparency to the SRO’s day-to-day operations, and clarity to the school closure discussions. Suggested reforms included:
- Calling for the SRO to publish detailed information about the five domains being used as a rubric to determine “unreasonable hardship” for families, which could impact potential closures, as soon as possible, and that the 30-45 day window be extended by at least 30 days to allow for more public involvement in the process.
- Recommending that closure decisions for schools receiving SIG grants from the Michigan Department of Education be delayed until a year after the expiration of the grants.
- Implementing a comprehensive state School Closure Community Impact Study before any final closure decisions are made.
- Passing legislation like House Bill 4090 to add clarification to school closing procedures, and ensuring that those procedures apply to schools being closed by the SRO.
“We will continue to engage the governor in order to find solutions for the citizens of Detroit,” said state Rep. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit). “Yesterday’s dialogue was positive and productive. All parties agree the status quo of school closure is not only concerning but also detrimental to the education of Detroit’s students. I’m optimistic that we are on the path to a more long-term solution. We are prepared to work together to move our students, our schools and our state forward in the right direction.”
“I look forward to continuing the dialogue with the governor’s office to make sure that we fully address accountability and closure issues,” said state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “We need to make sure that whatever changes we make to the law, we have a public, transparent process that clearly defines how the SRO or any other entity is making a determination about whether or how to close or transform a school. Schools are often the center of a neighborhood, and whatever process we put in place next needs to account for the impact of a closure on an entire community.”
“Gov. Snyder made it clear he wants a robust plan to retool and relaunch stronger academic programs for the schools on the closure list,” said Rep. Gay-Dagnogo. “He urged our caucus to rally our local stakeholders to get a plan in place expeditiously, and that’s what we’re taking steps to do.”