89.1 WEMU

Detroit Public Schools Bailout Passes Senate With Some Controversy

Mar 23, 2016

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The state Senate has approved a more-than $700 million plan for a financial bailout of the Detroit school system. 


The bills would return control of the district to an elected school board following years of state control, help pay off a crushing debt burden and give an appointed board the power to close low-performing schools – including charter academies

It would also tap into Michigan’s tobacco settlement money to pay for a “new” school district that would be responsible for educating students, while the current district would exist solely to collect taxes to pay off debt.

The package didn’t go far enough to satisfy some Democrats, including state Senator Coleman Young (D-Detroit), who said it doesn’t guarantee resources for classrooms.  “What good is it if we have all this power, all this ability, to be elected and serve in these seats if we see a glaring issue of children not having the basic tools they need to succeed?” he said.  “Forget college-bound.  You’ve got 12th graders who can’t read!” 

The size of the payout and the control over charters was too much for some Republicans.  But others breathed a sigh of relief that the package cleared its first big hurdle.  “I’m happy that it’s gotten this far, but we’re far from done,” said state Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart), who helped pull the deal together. 

Now the bills go the state House as the clock ticks toward a practical deadline.  The district is expected to run out of money in early April.

Charter school operators vowed a major push to stop the legislation, which they say would deprive Detroit parents of choices on how to best educate their kids.  The House GOP leader says the plan doesn’t do enough to ensure accountability for teachers and administrators.  The House can take up the bills after the Legislature returns from its spring break

“The focus throughout this process has remained on how we can position Detroit’s students to thrive and succeed,” Snyder said.  “Today’s agreement shows the best solutions are found when everyone works together.”

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org