When Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan steps to the podium tonight for his fifth State of the City address, education will be one of top issues on his agenda.
“We’re trying to explore every lever that we can possibly pull to ensure that there are good schools in Detroit, so that’s what we’re looking at,” Eli Savit, a top Duggan adviser, told Chalkbeat last month. “We don’t control the schools. We don’t want to control the schools. But anything we can do to help, we’re willing to do, and that can take a number of different forms.”
It’s not clear what Duggan plans to announce in his speech, but it’s clear that he’s focused on schools.
The speech will be given at Detroit’s Western International High School and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti will be introducing the mayor.
The suggestion that Duggan could get involved in schools has put some school advocates on high alert, worried he could tip the scales to one side or the other in Detroit’s highly competitive school environment.
Roughly half of the schools in Detroit are privately-managed charter schools and the other half are run by the unionized main Detroit school district. The two groups often butt heads and rarely work together.
Some civic leaders — like those behind the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children — have called on the mayor to “facilitate education ecosystem planning” for city schools.
That could take many forms, including the creation of centralized systems for both district and charter school data.
The coalition, which is led by business, philanthropic and educational leaders, urged the mayor to create “school quality standards for all schools.” That has some advocates worried the mayor could issue school letter grades or otherwise pick winners and losers in a city where most experts expect some low-performing, half-full schools to close in coming years.
Savit said last month the mayor was taking the group’s recommendations to heart.
“We heard that recommendation loud and clear,” Savit said. “The coalition was a diverse set of stakeholders that came to us with that recommendation. Of course we’re looking at it and how … to potentially move that forward.”
Duggan’s speech is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. You can watch it here.