Michigan House approves $500 million funding plan for Detroit Public Schools

Money would help district pay off debt, but doesn't include a commission

LANSING, Mich. - After 15 hours of mostly private meetings, the Michigan House approved a $500 million restructuring plan for the ailing Detroit Public Schools.

House lawmakers started session Wednesday and emerged early Thursday morning to approve a plan that's aimed at easing teachers' fears they won't be paid. The Detroit Federation of Teachers held a two-day sick-out this week over the concerns. 
 
 
The money would help the district pay off debt and cover district costs, but doesn't include a commission that would have the authority to approve which schools open and close in the district. That was a key part of the Senate plan which passed previously, a major reason why Democrats voted against the package.
 
Democrats argued the omission would not address root problems at the schools, while Republicans say they worry including the commission would limit charter schools in the city.

“We all agree that the state needs to take responsibility and fix the issues in DPS,” said state Representative Brian Banks (D-Detroit), chairman of the Detroit Caucus. “That’s why I’m baffled that House Republicans chose to reject our input and continue on the same course that got us here in the first place.”

House Speaker Kevin Cotter is in favor of the legislation. 

"This is the right plan to fix Detroit’s schools and give the city a good, working school system for the long-term. The people of Michigan want assurances that this incredible investment in the district will be used well and protected," he said. "The House Republican plan delivers that protection and includes serious reforms to ensure every dollar will be used effectively and efficiently.”

Assistant Democratic Leader Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit, said the House Republicans have chosen to "pave their own path with corporate special interests that run for-profit schools here in Michigan. 

“It was state oversight that focused more on cutting costs and helping corporate-run charters make money that got us into this mess, but House Republicans haven’t learned their lesson. Instead, this package of bills just gives us more of the same," Durhal said. 

READ: Rhodes send open letter to Detroit community slamming sick-outs

Detroit mayor: 'I'm deeply concerned'

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan released a statement Thursday describing his concerns with the House's legislation. Duggan said the bills lack adequate funding. 

Here is his full statment:

"In 2009, when the state placed the Detroit Public Schools under emergency management, it did so without ever developing a clear plan of how state management would improve the education of our children. The results have reflected that lack of planning: 5 emergency managers, 7 straight years of deficit, the largest decline in student achievement in Michigan, and the loss of nearly 50% of all students from the system.

Senate Bills 710 and 711 were a thoughtful attempt to prevent this kind of tragedy from repeating itself when the schools are returned to the Detroit School Board. The Senate Bills had the support of Governor Snyder, the support of community leaders in the Education Coalition, and the strong bipartisan support of the Senate. They provided the funding necessary to give DPS a real chance of a successful transition. Just as critically, the Senate Bills provided a tool for real reform in Detroit’s classrooms – using the very successful Washington DC model to establish a local Detroit Education Commission with a single standard of accountability that applies to all schools – traditional and charter – that operate in Detroit.
   
I’m deeply concerned that the legislation adopted by the House of Representatives last night will inevitably repeat the tragic mistakes of 2009. The bills return some control of a broken system to the local board without adequate funding to reverse the declines of the last 7 years, and without any new method of accountability in the classroom, DEC or otherwise.

In the last two weeks, I met with numerous members of the House of Representatives who had thoughtful ideas on how to make sure that, this time, the transition of DPS has a realistic chance of success. Unfortunately, those ideas did not end up in the final bills.
   
The state can’t just throw up its hands and give up in frustration, passing a bill that has no chance of providing educational success for Detroit’s children. I urge Governor Snyder and the Republican and Democratic leadership in Lansing to work to resolve the differences in these bills so that this time we get a result that truly improves our children’s achievement in the classroom."

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