CHICAGO — The Detroit City Council heard testimony but did not vote Tuesday on a measure that would ask voters whether they want to abolish the Detroit Public School Board and place the troubled school system under mayoral control.
Proponents have gathered more than 30,000 signatures in favor of putting the question on the November ballot. The City Council must approve the petitions by Aug. 24 to get it on the ballot.
The Michigan Legislature would still need to enact the measure, which also creates an advisory board of parents, teachers, and other community representatives. The Legislature could establish mayoral oversight on its own, but passage of the referendum is considered important to gaining legislative support.
The council heard testimony from residents and school board members, mostly in opposition to the measure. Most council members said they oppose it, too.
Supporters of mayoral oversight include Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Mayor Dave Bing, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the Detroit Urban League.
Public finance attorney David Baker Lewis, a chairman at Detroit-based Lewis & Munday, is treasurer of the coalition leading the petition effort.
The state has already taken over Detroit Public Schools’ financial management. Granholm appointed Robert Bobb as DPS’ emergency financial manager in January 2009. His term expires next March.
DPS is facing a $363 million structural deficit and officials warn that shortfall could worsen.
Moody’s Investors Service maintains an underlying rating of B1 on the district. The school system has roughly $1.8 billion of outstanding debt.