Citizens Research Council issues its Progress Report on Detroit Public Schools Community District Finances

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – May 30, 2017 – Dr. Nikolai Vitti just began his tenure as superintendent of the “new” Detroit Public Schools Community District, the state’s largest school district. While school soon will be out for summer for students, Dr. Vitti’s school year is just beginning the Citizens Research Council of Michigan has just issued its “Progress Report on Detroit Public Schools Community District Finances” that gives him a timely study guide to the critical issues that need to be addressed to keep the district financially sound.

“We have studied the challenges facing the Detroit Public Schools closely for many years and this progress report is a deep dive into where the district is right now financially,” said Craig Thiel, Senior Research Associate. “The good news is that for the first time in many years the district will finish the school year with a budget surplus. This is largely because of improved management and the last year’s rescue package.” Thiel cautions, “but it won’t remain that way unless Superintendent Vitti takes immediate steps to address some of the chronic and very serious problems like stabilizing enrollment and rationalizing the use of school buildings .”

The report identifies the three most important challenges that need to be addressed:

1. Chronic student achievement failure is the biggest challenge for the district. Detroit Public Schools has been the worst performing urban school district in the nation for many years and as a result thousands of students have left the district to alternatives inside and outside the city. To improve and turn this around, resources must be targeted toward proven interventions that build long-term, sustainable achievement.

2. The district must build off its now solid financial foundation to stabilize its student enrollment. According to the Council’s research, annual enrollment declines are no longer in the double-digit range, but enrollment is still falling around two percent per year. Long-term health requires stable to increasing enrollment.

3. The district cannot continue to operate half-empty schools. Nearly 50 percent of the classrooms in 2015-2016 were empty. One-quarter of the high schools — seven schools — were 75 percent empty. With so many empty seats, valuable resources are being siphoned away from classroom instruction, support services, and other academic programs. This inefficiency threatens the district’s long-term financial health. School closures and consolidations must remain an option. The challenge will be to balance the demands for improved efficiency with access to a nearby school for Detroit residents.

“This report is the latest example of the thorough and thoughtful approach we take on the important challenges facing Michigan and our cities,” said Eric Lupher, President, Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “Facts matter. More than ever, Michigan needs trusted, independent and objective research to make sound public policy decisions. Citizens Research Council has a 101-year history of providing unbiased, impactful research.”

The report is being issued ahead of a Skillman Foundation hosted panel discussion on the state of Detroit’s schools at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Wednesday, May 31 at 9 a.m. with the hope that its findings can bring further insights into this important topic.

Eric Lupher, president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, will be attending the session and can answer questions about the report and the work the council has done pertaining to education and Detroit and is available for interviews on these and other topics during his time at the conference.

The paper is available at no cost on the Citizens Research Council’s website,


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, CRC aims to ensure sound and rational public policy formation in Michigan. For more information, visit

Citizens Research Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose work is supported entirely by donations. Donate now to become a supporter of the independent, non-partisan public policy research we do for the betterment of Michigan state and local government.
To arrange an interview with either Eric Lupher or Craig Thiel contact:

Janine Krasicky Sadaj 248-514-4558 (cell) or

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