This is what the recession looks like in a country that’s decided to disinvest in public education. Reuters reports that Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager appointed to address the Detroit’s bleeding public school system, has decided to send notices to all 5,466 unionized public school teachers. And 250 administrators will get layoff notices as well.
Detroit’s public school system is facing a steep $327 million budget deficit that’s been aggravated by slipping enrollment and decreased state investment. The district-wide layoff announcement is but one of the emergency steps Bobb’s taken to deal with the financial emergency. Back in February Bobb ordered half the district’s schools shut down. He later announced that 41 of those schools would become charter schools.
Bobb’s been shutting down schools for two years in a row, though. In 2010 he shut down 45 of the district’s then-179 school system. Back in 2005 before Bobb was hired Detroit had to shut down 34 schools to deal with what was then a $200 million budget deficit. Bobb’s Feburary plan approved consolidating schools and class sizes of up to 60 students.
It’s unlikely that every layoff notice will result in actual layoffs, but under the district’s union contract they must notify teachers who face potential job losses. The final numbers of actual layoffs will go into effect in late July.
Detroit Public Schools enrollment has been on a steady decline in part because the city is shrinking—Reuters reported a city population decline of 25 percent in the last year alone. And as DPS sheds about 8,000 students a year, the city’s charter schools network is flourishing. Charters are publicly funded but independently run schools whose faculty are typically not unionized. According to the New York Times, there are as many students enrolled in charter schools as there are in traditional public schools, and there’s even talk of converting the entire district to charter school control.