By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT (Reuters) - Nearly four dozen of Detroit's poorest-performing schools will be placed in the hands of a new statewide authority next year, the latest attempt to turn around Michigan's struggling education system.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced on Monday that a new authority, the Education Achievement System, will operate the lowest 5 percent of schools in Michigan. It will start with 45 failing Detroit schools in fall 2012 and expand to schools outside the city the following year.
Snyder, along with Roy Roberts, emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools, announced the move at a press conference at a Detroit high school on Monday. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined by teleconference.
"We're fighting to save the city of Detroit. We are all united in a desperate need to get better faster."
Snyder also launched a private fundraising program to give all Detroit public high school graduates financial resources to attend at least two years of college or a career training school in Michigan.
Snyder and Roberts declined to say how much this program would cost. They said they hoped to expand resources to be able to fund four years of higher education.
"It is really about reinventing Detroit and doing it as a team effort as a starting point and then taking that success throughout all of Michigan," Snyder told reporters.
Over five years the authority can reach 5 percent of Michigan's 4,000 public schools, or 200. Principals, teachers and staff will have direct school control rather than central administrators, Snyder said.
Roberts will serve as chair of the executive committee of the system during its startup.
"For Detroit to be successful, it depends on having successful schools," Snyder said.
The system will be independent, but established through an agreement between Detroit Public Schools and Eastern Michigan University. Its 11-member board will have seven appointees by the governor, two by Roberts and two by Eastern Michigan.
Roberts said Michigan has 92 persistently low achieving public schools, with 45 in Detroit.
"Those students came to us with a desire and ability and we failed them," Roberts said. "This system is broken and I can't fix it and you can't fix it. We have to do something different."
Successful Detroit schools will stay in the district and the $327 million deficit will be eliminated over five years in part by issuing debt, Roberts said.
The Detroit schools will continue to manage district property, debt service management and receive local tax revenue.
Roberts said the goal was to ensure that one-third more of the dollars are spent in the classroom, rather than on central administration.
Principals will have direct power to hire teachers, who will continue to have the right to unionize. Schools will stay in the system until they show marked student progress and then will have the right to remain or return to their district.
"By virtually any measure, Detroit is frankly at the bottom of the barrel," Duncan said in his remarks.
(Additional reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)