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Mayor Duggan shares vision for Detroit education system, youth jobs


February 26, 2015

DETROIT -Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan does not want to run the schools.

He wasted no time Thursday morning taking that off the board at the Detroit Policy Conference. Duggan said he has his hands full bringing basic city services up to snuff.

However, the mayor does see his administration playing a role in bringing a more rational strategy to school planning going forward, including making it easier for parents to enroll their children and get them to school.

“I can tell you, from the meeting I was in for 2 or 3 hours one night last week, I’m enormously encouraged,” said Duggan.

Duggan sees his administration playing an active role in the creation and management of an education commission. Currently, there are 20 different entities authorizing charter schools with little coordination or rational planning. Some neighborhoods are over-served, while others aren’t served at all.

“If you want to open a new school in the city you’ve got to indicate what kind of school and what location, and will be authorized by this. On the other hand, if we have a neighborhood like Brightmoor that doesn’t have a school, the education commission will go say, ‘We’ll take proposals to put a K-5 school in this location,'” said Duggan.

Parents applying to several high-demand schools now must apply to each school or system — Detroit Public Schools, charter schools, the Education Achievement, etc. — individually. The mayor wants to see a simpler, common enrollment process for parents in which one application can be forwarded to any school they desire.

About 40 percent of Detroit families have no family car. That eliminates many charter schools without busing. Duggan wants Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and Detroit Public Schools buses to expand and coordinate so no child is left at the curb.

“Shouldn’t we have a single transportation system for the children in the city to get you to the public, EAA and charter schools, so now choice is available to every parent regardless of income,” he said.

The mayor also took the opportunity to enlist business support for his Grow Detroit’s Youth Talent (click here to visit the website) program. It aims to employ 5,000 Detroit kids ages 16 to 18 for six weeks this summer. Businesses can hire these paid interns for as little as $1,000.

“If we can create 5,000 opportunities for our young people this summer it will change the tone in this community and it’ll be a significant step forward,” said Duggan.

The city already has had 3,000 young people sign up, but it needs the support of businesses. They are bringing a number of summer jobs programs under one banner to streamline operations.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren will announce its recommendations March 31.