Detroit Ordered To Close Half Its Schools

Welcome to the new austerity:

State education officials have ordered the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools to immediately implement a plan that balances the district’s books by closing half its schools.

The Detroit News says the financial restructuring plan will increase high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidate operations.

State superintendent of public instruction Mike Flanagan says in a Feb. 8 letter that the state plans to install another financial manager who must continue to implement Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb’s plan after he leaves June 30. Flanagan’s said approval of Bobb’s plan means the district can’t declare bankruptcy.

Expect more of this elsewhere.

FILED UNDER: Deficit and Debt, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. wr says:

    Welcome to Republican heaven.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I blame the teacher’s union. Clearly this is because of their collective bsrgaining.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Glad to see ^ is more astute than ^^, even if by misadventure.

  4. Brett #2 says:

    Good for Detroit. The central city’s population has shrunk drastically since those schools were built, and continues to shrink.

  5. JD says:

    [quote]Welcome to Republican heaven.[/quote]
    I’m not sure there is a Republican in Detroit.

  6. jwest says:

    This is a comment on schools, but you’ll need to bear with me for a moment of explanation.

    Back in the early 90’s, I read an article on crime statistics for different cities (or more technically, Statistical Metropolitan Areas) in the U.S. Being familiar with one of the areas rated low in crime and another rated high, I questioned the findings. They just didn’t seem correct with the facts on the ground.

    I obtained the FBI report (Crime in America) and poured over the data. At that point, I knew something was wrong so I asked for the raw data. The FBI wasn’t too anxious to comply, so I funded a small research study at a local university to help collect the numbers. Since this was pre-internet, it involved writing to and obtaining 46 individual state reports then inputting the relevant data into VisiCalc spreadsheets on Radio Shack computers. Once correlated, the truth became evident.

    Low crime states reported their crime statistics differently than the high crime states. Violent crime is composed of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Of the four, assaults would account for 90% of the total, so a variation in what was classified in this category made all the difference. Low crime states separated out the vast majority of assaults which were “family violence” and did not include them in their totals. High crime state included everything, even assaults committed between inmates in prison. To my way of thinking, this variation in methods went against the idea of a “Uniform Crime Report” that was to be used to compare different locales. There were reasons for both methods of reporting depending on the political reasoning in the states. One state would want a low crime number for quality of life, tourism and property value reasons, where another state would shoot for the high end to qualify for federal grants and overtime for police.

    When the information was present to the Deputy Director of the FBI and the president of the National Sheriffs Association (that consults on the guidelines), the response was “Why are you messing with this?” To this day, the methods of reporting data remain the same, although a note has been added that the report shouldn’t be used to compare one area to another.

    This long preface is used to demonstrate that just because a government agency reports figures, they are sometimes deliberately misleading for political purposes. Which leads us to schools.

    As with the Detroit schools, everything boils down to money. In order to discuss whether or not shutting down half the schools is a wise choice or terrible decision, one needs to know how much Detroit is spending on each pupil, how that compares to other localities and what the performance is for the money. This should be easy, but it’s not. Politicians, school administrators and teachers all have a vested interest in making per pupil spending seem as low as possible, in order to claim poverty and gain additional funding.

    Here are two items to illustrate what the problem is:

    The first, from the Cato Institute, outlines how difficult it is to calculate the true per pupil spending. The second discusses the actual cost for Washington DC students.

    In any discussion of the Detroit situation, the real facts need to be brought out in the open. Once everyone knows the actual numbers, intelligent decisions can be made.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Brett’s point is the key one: It’s not just that Detroit can’t afford all these schools but that they no longer have need for them. It’s a dying city. Perhaps, because it was built on rock and roll?