For years, the Detroit Public School system has dealt with corruption in its school board, a multi-million dollar deficit and a dismal graduation rate. These days, DPS is scattered and inefficient. Detroit started construction of a new high school funded by a bond program last week. At the same time, following friction with the school board, Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced that he won’t return for another school year with the district. The future is uncertain, but one thing is clear: the district needs an overhaul. DPS must properly manage its finances and balance its budget in order to tackle its academic problems.

On Thursday, according to an Oct. 22 Detroit Free Press article, DPS broke ground on its new Mumford High School — a $50.3-million building funded by a bond program. According to the Free Press article, the new high school will feature new athletic fields, an eight-lane swimming pool and an auditorium that can seat 800. The day after the ground-breaking, Bobb announced that he won’t return to Detroit for another school year, according to an Oct. 22 article in the Free Press.

The new Mumford High School — one of three new Detroit high schools planned — should shape up to be a beautiful building. Students and teachers need facilities that create an environment in which learning is possible — environments that many schools in Detroit currently lack. Students deserve schools in which they feel comfortable, safe and able to learn. Teachers, of course, will also be attracted to districts with nicer facilities.

But DPS must remember that it must also keep up its facilities — old and new. And with DPS’s deficit sitting at $332 million, it’s not clear where the district will find the funds to maintain the buildings and staff them with custodians, administrators and office personnel. DPS must make sure that its new facilities don’t fall into disrepair, or it will simply be giving Detroit residents more of the same.

DPS’s facilities aren’t the only thing in need of update. Detroit students often don’t have textbooks. They sometimes lack basic necessities like toilet paper, paper towel and light bulbs. Test scores have been poor. And less than 40 percent of Detroit students make it to graduation.

But before DPS can tackle these deficiencies, it has to clean up its spending. Now that Bobb has chosen to leave DPS, the condition of the district’s finances is uncertain. Things between Bobb and the DPS Board of Education have been tense. Bobb may have spent more time focusing on fixing academics than he did on balancing the districts’ budget. He has argued that the two go hand-in-hand. But Bobb increased the deficit by $100 million in a year. Whoever takes control of the city’s finances after Bobb should be sure to focus on money, not academic reform.

Unless the district can manage its money properly, it can’t combat the problems students face. To increase its test scores and graduation rate, DPS must provide students with a learning environment that includes more than just eight-lane swimming pools: it must give them tools to succeed academically.

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