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Prop S continues progress for DPS

By Roy S. Roberts

On Nov. 6, Detroit voters will have the opportunity to vote on renewing and restoring the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Operating Millage (Proposal S). Renewal of DPS Operating Millage on Nov. 6 means teaching and learning will go on uninterrupted and progress will continue. This millage provides for continued operating funds — approximately $80.9 million or 21 percent of DPS’ annual operating budget — to allow teaching and learning to continue uninterrupted in our 100 schools.

The funds generated by the renewal of the operating millage can only be used — by law — to support the education of DPS students and are used strictly for day-to-day operating expenses of the school district. Absolutely none of the millage funds will be used to build or renovate DPS buildings; nor will any funds be given to the Education Achievement Authority (EAA).

How will the critical funds be used? They will be used for classroom instruction, technology, athletics, music and arts programming. What will happen if Proposal S is not passed? A loss of $80.9 million in operating funds could cripple the district, eliminate the funding, for example, of some 900 teaching and support positions in our students’ schools.

It’s also important to note that Proposal S is not a new tax; it is a renewal of taxes that were previously approved in 2005. Even more important for everyone to understand is the fact that as a non-homestead tax, it is levied only on the owners of industrial, commercial and rental property. Owner-occupied homes are exempt from this levy under existing law, meaning their taxes will not increase.

I want Detroiters to know that DPS is making sustained progress at turning around this school system, no longer operating on a “one-size-fits-all” model for our 50,000 students.

How are we doing this? It starts with a new philosophy. It’s a new day at DPS and anything is possible! Then comes the real work of implementing new and innovative ideas and programs, including all students having an Individualized Learning Map, establishing nine self-governing schools that place control and accountability at the school level and placing technology in the hands of our students, 24/7, through our take-home Netbooks program.

At the same time, we have been working hard to get our financial house in order. Thanks to the hard work and collaboration of the entire DPS family, in the last 15 months we’ve made unprecedented progress in terms of the district’s financial health, including two consecutive operating budget surpluses and a reduction of our legacy deficit from $327 million to $74 million. We’ve also saved millions of dollars from procurement reforms and office space consolidation.

In addition, it gives me great pleasure to report that overall parent involvement is increasing with gains of up to 63 percent in the last year alone, and serious on-campus safety incidents were down by as much as 61 percent with an overall 10 percent reduction in on-campus incidents.

Just as DPS is experiencing more community, corporate, volunteer, alumni and church support than ever before, a wide array of organizations and education leaders have stepped forward to support this particular ballot initiative, including the Detroit Board of Education, the Detroit Federation of Teachers and the district’s Coalition of Bargaining Units.

Roy S. Roberts is emergency financial manager of Detroit Public Schools.

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