In 2014 the Detroit City Council passed and Mayor Michael Duggan approved a resolution that banned the city from selling any one of 53 closed Detroit school district school buildings to a public charter school for a period of five years. The action raises questions about the mayor's impartiality in a plan recently approved by the state Senate. The plan would give Duggan a key role in whether school choice in the form of charters keeps expanding in Detroit or becomes a dwindling remnant.

The resolution was part of a deal the city made with Detroit Public Schools to forgive $11.1 million in unpaid bills owed by DPS. In return, the city took ownership of 53 schools and other property. The city agreed through the resolution not to sell any of a total 77 properties to a charter school that is within one mile of a DPS school.

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John Roach, a spokesman for Mayor Duggan, didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Duggan’s approval of this resolution gives additional weight to questions about his role in the future of charter schools in the city. The mayor’s office has played a key role in crafting elements of various reform plans currently under discussion for Detroit Public Schools.

In the plan passed by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate, the mayor would appoint members to a newly created Detroit Education Commission that would have the power to determine whether, how many and where new charter schools would be allowed to open within the city limits.

More recently Duggan has said this commission would operate as an “impartial judge.”

“It’s frustrating to hear Mayor Duggan complain that charter schools aren’t located in enough Detroit neighborhoods when the city refuses to sell empty DPS buildings to charter schools,” said Gary Naeyaert, the executive director of Great Lakes Education Project. “So the mayor helps to create the academic ‘deserts’ he complains about, and then uses this to push his ‘command and control’ DEC plan to monopolize K-12 education and limit charter school enrollment in Detroit. That’s a pretty good trick."


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