Tuition-Free Promise for All Detroit High School Grads

Last week, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that all Detroit high school graduates will be guaranteed two years of tuition-free college education.

The commitment is made possible through the Detroit Promise Zone, which will begin collecting tax revenue for the program in 2018. Over the next three years, scholarships will be provided by the Detroit Scholarship Fund, created by the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation.

This scholarship, which has existed since 2013, has already helped nearly 2,000 Detroit High School graduates attend community college, tuition free. According to Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, “we welcome the Detroit Promise as a powerful example of collaboration and what we can achieve when we work together, and also as a permanent, dedicated funding source – a guarantee that kids will be able to go to college, no matter their family’s economic status.”

To be eligible, students must live in Detroit and have attended a high school in the city – traditional public, charter or private – for their junior and senior years.

Flurry of Action before Legislative Break

Following a flurry of activity around early literacy, Detroit school funding and early budgets for the next fiscal year, the legislature has gone on break, returning on April 12.

State appropriations subcommittees passed their budget for the upcoming fiscal year, FY 2016-17, during the last week before break. In both chambers, education subcommittee budgets include increases to per pupil funding and funds aimed to improve literacy proficiency.  Other developments included:

  • HONEST, COMPARABLE SCHOOL INFORMATION AT RISK:  The House of Representatives education appropriations subcommittee eliminates the M-STEP, ACT WorkKeys and SAT assessments, requiring the state to find replacement tests in less than a year. If passed, the change would have dire consequences for Michigan families and leaders.  Among them: Michiganders would be at risk of not having comparable, honest information once again about how the state’s public schools are performing based on high career- and college-ready performance standards – including comparable data to other states – among many other challenges.  The Governor’s budget recommendation and the Senate’s education subcommittee budget do not eliminate state assessments.
  • EARLY LITERACY BILL DEBATE CONTINUES:  Before adjourning, the State Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 4822 (Price – R), regarding early literacy proficiency. Due to differences between the House and Senate versions, the bill will now go to a conference committee. Senate testimony from The Education Trust-Midwest includes recommendations on how the bill and state budget can be improved to more effectively raise Michigan’s early literacy levels for students.
  • DETROIT PACKAGE PASSES SENATE:  The Senate also passed legislation to keep Detroit Public Schools afloat through the end of the school year. The legislation, HB 5296 (Pscholka – R) and HB 5385 (Poleski – R) provides about $50 million and requires financial oversight of the district by the Detroit Financial Review Commission when the district is not being run by an emergency manager. Additionally, the Senate passed a long-term bailout package, including a Detroit Education Commission to coordinate school systems in Detroit. That package now goes to the House for consideration.

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