For Immediate Release

Contact: Selma Tucker, Director of Marketing and Communications
Public Sector Consultants
(517) 484-4954

Moral duty to Detroit schools, financial duty less clear

In the latest Public Sector Consultants/Denno Research poll, conducted May 14 to 16, 2015, we asked 600 likely voters statewide a series of questions about Detroit Public Schools. From the governor’s plan to address the district’s debt of $483 million to the role of the state-appointed emergency manager and charter schools, we wanted to know what voters are thinking.

There is a moral obligation, but not a financial one. When asked if the State of Michigan has an obligation to ensure a quality education for all children in the city of Detroit, an overwhelming majority (82 percent) of Michigan’s voters said yes. However, when asked if the state should assist in paying down the debts of Detroit Public Schools, about two-thirds (65 percent) said no. Republicans (76 percent) and independents (72 percent) were more likely to say no, compared to Democrats (50 percent).

Of those who approve, we also asked if they support Governor Snyder’s plan to have every district in the state help pay this debt at a cost of $50 per pupil over the next several years. Voters were split on the idea, with 43 percent supporting it and 43 percent opposing.

A school board is desired. The state has controlled DPS since 2009 through a state-appointed emergency manager. We asked voters what they thought the best model was to oversee Detroit Public Schools right now. Overall, voters favor allowing more local autonomy:

  • School board appointed by both the mayor and governor (35 percent)
  • Locally elected school board (27 percent)
  • Continue the state-appointed emergency manager (21 percent)
  • School board appointed by mayor (5 percent)
  • School board appointed by governor (4 percent)

Not surprisingly, there is little support (just 3 percent) for the emergency manager among voters in Detroit, but otherwise, their preferences followed the same pattern as statewide voters: 39 percent support the school board appointed by both the mayor and governor, and 36 percent support a locally elected school board.

There is no strong opinion on charter schools in Detroit. There are currently about as many charter schools in Detroit as there are traditional public schools. We asked voters how they felt about this mix of charter schools relative to education performance.

Close to half (41 percent) said that changing the number of charter schools would neither help nor hurt education performance in Detroit, while 27 percent felt that opening more charter schools to serve more children would improve education performance in Detroit, and 19 percent said that closing charter schools so more children are served by traditional schools would improve education performance in Detroit.

About the survey

Michigan Radio, an NPR News Station and the state’s most listened-to public radio service, and Public Sector Consultants (PSC), the state’s premier nonpartisan think tank, are partnering on a yearlong initiative studying Michiganders’ attitudes toward policy issues affecting their lives in a series called Michigan’s Pulse. Michigan’s Pulse will release quarterly in weeklong segments on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty with in-depth analysis by PSC researchers and other thought leaders.

The Michigan Radio/PSC survey of the Michigan electorate was conducted by Lansing-based Denno Research. Six-hundred respondents in the state of Michigan were surveyed from May 14 to 16, 2015, with a margin of error of plus/minus 4 percent. A screen was employed to include only those participants who said they would vote, either at the polls or by absentee ballot, in the November 2016 general election.

Full survey results are available here.

Public Sector Consultants is Michigan’s most respected, connected, and dedicated research and program management firm, with specialties in governance and regulation, health care, education, energy, and environmental policy. PSC is committed to providing objective research and sound solutions to the public and private sector.

Michigan Radio is an NPR News Station, and the state’s most listened-to public radio service, attracting more than 500,000 listeners each week across Michigan. Licensed to the University of Michigan, Michigan Radio broadcasts at 91.7 FM in southeastern Michigan, 91.1 FM in Flint, and 104.1 in western Michigan, and is available online at