For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Lupher, 734-542-8001

Citizens Research Council Gets High Marks on Detroit Public Schools Report

Governmental Research Association honors the Research Council for
educating policymakers and the public on implications of DPS’ debt

LIVONIA, Mich. – August 8, 2017 – The Governmental Research Association (GRA) recently honored the Citizens Research Council of Michigan with a certificate of merit for “Most Effective Education” for its January 2016 report on Detroit Public Schools’ Legacy Costs and Indebtedness. GRA presented the award to Eric Lupher, president, Citizens Research, at its recent national conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Eric Lupher (right) receives award on behalf of Citizens Research Council from Joe Adams, Research Coordinator for the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

“This report is a prime example of a role we can play in the policy arena as providers of fact and information to help policymakers sift through the ‘noise’ and sound bites that dominate policy discussions,” said Lupher. “Our goal was not to provide ‘the answer’ to the decades-long financial challenges facing DPS, but to effectively educate the media, Detroit residents, and state and local decision makers. Our research outlined the nature and extent of the problem and pointed out that state intervention would be inevitable given the amount of debt involved and the potential for other entities to be affected by a default.”

Besides recognizing the value of the report in educating policymakers and citizens about this important policy issue, the Governmental Research Association recognized Citizens Research Council for its substantial efforts in sharing the report’s findings.

To educate Detroit residents, state policymakers and the media, Citizens Research Council –

  • Distributed the report through its website crcmich.org and social media channels
  • Held a heavily attended webinar highlighting the findings of the report
  • Presented to the Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee and non-governmental groups
  • Received extensive coverage from local, statewide, national and international media due to the high level of attention on DPS’ financial plight. Findings of the report made their way to Harpers and The Economist magazines, as well as a public radio show in Paris, France.

“The Citizens Research Council of Michigan is extremely honored to receive this recognition by our peers in governmental research,” Lupher added. “It is a testament to the abilities of Craig Thiel, the report’s primary author, that we were recognized for helping to improve the formulation of public policy in Michigan.”

The Citizens Research Council’s report documented how the Detroit Public School District’s multi-year and multi-million dollar operating deficits strained cash flow, and left the district with scarce resources for classroom instruction and caused many vendors to go unpaid. The ongoing fiscal strain caused the district to defer routine maintenance on its buildings, many operating at half capacity, to ensure teachers got paid. At the same time, academic achievement, staff morale, and the economic attractiveness of the city suffered. The Citizens Research Council recognized the need for objective, nonpartisan research on the matter and the report helped to guide future state action.

The paper addressed two major aspects of DPS’ debt:

1) the amount of debt and legacy costs with which the school district was straddled, and

2) the nature of the debt and who bore the ultimate responsibility for paying it.

One significant finding was that debt relief for DPS would look much different than what the City of Detroit faced entering bankruptcy. The city’s creditors included pensioners and bondholders. For the school district, in some cases of nonpayment, the financing responsibility could fall to the State of Michigan (all taxpayers). In other instances, other school districts could be responsible for picking up the cost. And for other obligations, it was unknown who would be liable for the district’s nonpayment because a similar default has never occurred and state law was silent on the matter.

About Citizens Research Council:

Founded in 1916, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan works to improve government in Michigan. The organization provides factual, unbiased, independent information concerning significant issues of state and local government organization, policy, and finance. By delivery of this information to policymakers and citizens, Citizens Research Council aims to ensure sound and rational public policy formation in Michigan.  

About the Governmental Research Association:

The Governmental Research Association, founded in 1914, is the national organization of individuals professionally engaged in governmental research. The purpose of the association is to encourage individuals and organizations to engage in governmental research in the general interest. Governmental research involves the collection, analysis, and distribution of factual information on governmental activities to citizens and officials for the improvement of government and the reduction of its cost. The association annually recognizes the achievements of its member organizations in Effective Education, Policy Achievement, and Distinguished Research.

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