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House Introduces Legislation on Detroit Public Schools

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Feb. 24, 2016

Last week, the House Republicans unveiled their proposal for Detroit Public Schools. While it retains the idea of creating two districts, the original Detroit Public Schools and a new Detroit Community Schools, it goes much farther in prescribing activities and regulating the new district.

Similar to the Senate package, the original Detroit Public Schools would simply exist to pay off debt from the 18 mils it collects. Once the debt is paid off, the old DPS would be dissolved. The second district would be the new Detroit Community Schools, which would take over the functions of the district and start out debt-free. Also, House Bill 5385 is similar to Senate Bill 711 and would allow a financial review commission to have fiscal oversight of the new district.

The House package, HBs 5382-5387, would also require the new Detroit Community Schools to be subject to an A-F grading system, year-round school and an early literacy system (similar to what was proposed as the third grade reading bill, HB 4822). It would also create a new merit pay system based on job performance and not length of service or an advanced degree, and require all new employees to be enrolled in a Tier 2 DC plan for retirement, putting them in a 401k program and not MPSERS.

The package does include a funding bill, HB 5382, which would divert $72 million from the revenues collected under the income tax to a trust fund to pay off the debt for DPS. This money is raised in part by ending certain tax credits for insurance companies.

The main bill, HB 5384 is sponsored by Rep. Daniella Garcia (R-Holland) who appears to be spearheading this package. The bills were referred to the House Committee on Appropriations, which will begin hearings on Feb. 24. MASB has been asked to testify at a future hearing.

Meanwhile, hearings continue in the Senate where MASB testified last week. The differences between the approaches are so stark it remains to be seen how the Senate, House and Governor will come to a reasonable agreement.

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