Senate passes comprehensive plan for Detroit students

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LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, today issued the following statement upon the passage of a plan for Detroit Public Schools.

“Today, the Senate passed a comprehensive, bipartisan plan for the students and parents of Detroit Public Schools.  The students and parents of DPS have gone too long without a reliable education system.  Without action, we risk a generation of students who will enter adulthood without an adequate education.

There are roughly 47,000 students in Detroit Public Schools and these children have spent too much time in an education system that is failing them.  The debt load of DPS requires intervention.

The legislation passed today addresses the debt load, provides opportunity for a revitalized community school district, returns the district to a locally elected school board, requires financial and budgetary oversight of tax dollars and relies on an independent board of education and community stakeholders to follow a rational system for opening and closing schools.

Furthermore, this legislation upholds education choice. Many Detroit parents have already demonstrated an interest in education choice by electing to send their kids to schools outside DPS.  Parents and students in Detroit deserve access to quality education choices.

Resolving the debt crisis in Detroit Public Schools now ensures that no student in Michigan will see a reduction in funding because of an insolvent DPS.  Bankruptcy would be an expensive and lengthy process that deals with the problems created by adults, but neglects the education needs of the kids.

Legislation on this grand a scale comes down to compromise.  Give and take from both parties was necessary in order to craft a comprehensive solution.  Republicans and Democrats came together to find a solution for 47,000 students and to prevent the rest of our schools from experiencing financial strain as a result of inaction,” said Meekhof.

Under the Senate-passed plan, the school district will be divided into the old DPS and a new community district. Governance of the district will be vested in a fully elected local school board in August 2016.  The current transition manager will oversee the district until the elected board takes office.  The elected board will appoint the first district superintendent.

The Senate plan provides approximately $200 million in transition funds to form the new community district.  An additional $515 million will be appropriated to fund the education needs and operation of the new community district.

The existing financial review commission which already oversees the finances of the City of Detroit, will also have oversight of the finances of the community district.  Two additional members will be added to the financial review commission to have input on the school district only.  Those two members will be the superintendent and school board president.

The legislation also includes an education commission, appointed by the mayor, which will be responsible for providing recommendations for siting and opening schools.

Schools within the community district will be assigned a grade of A, B, C, D, E or F.  High performing schools can replicate without approval of the education commission.  Those schools graded in the middle will seek approval from the commission.  Failing schools may be closed or subject to intervention.

The package is comprised on Senate Bills 710, 711, 819, 820, 821 and 822.

More information on the legislation can be found via the Michigan legislature’s website at www.legislature.mi.gov.