More Details on the Senate-Passed DPS Plan

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, March 30, 2016

Last week, the Senate passed its reform package for Detroit Public Schools. Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) made many changes to the originally introduced proposal in Senate Bill 710. Following, we break down some of the details of the Senate-passed proposal.

The bill includes many of the changes that were urged by MASB during our testimony to the Senate Committee last month and a few new details. The bills still create a new school district, a community district, while keeping the current DPS solely to pay off the debt. They also use tobacco settlement dollars that are received by the state each year to pay approximately $72 million a year toward the debt. Those payments are expected to last for about 10 years.

The new district would be created within 30 days after the bill is signed into law; if it is done before summer, as is hoped, the school board of the new district would be elected in August. The board would include seven members elected from wards like the Detroit City Council and two at-large members. The initial board would be elected for staggered terms and upon re-election to that seat, it would be for a six-year term. Once seated, the board would have 90 days to hire a superintendent.

The new district would be under the purview of the Financial Review Commission. The board and superintendent would still set and approve the budget; it would then be approved by the FRC. This process is the same that the city is under after it came out of bankruptcy. The FRC would not have oversight in the hiring of the superintendent, however, it would have to approve the hiring choice for the Chief Financial Officer of the district.

SB 710 also now includes an Education Commission that would oversee the siting of all public schools within DPS borders. It would consist of seven members appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan who each fill specific criteria. The commission would expire after five years unless it is determined that it has been effective in helping achieve a turnaround in the school district.

The commission would have to create a report on siting of existing and additional public schools within six months after it is established, and make specific siting recommendations for all public schools within the district boundaries. It will also have to submit an annual report updating the information and recommendations in the initial report. New schools, either charter or traditional, would not be able to open without the approval of the commission.

The bill requires that an A-F accountability system be established for all public schools within the community district boundaries. The system would be based on average results from the two most recent school years for which data is available. The bill also outlines a point system to determine the grade of the school and what the proficiency measures shall include. If a school is assigned an “F” grade, or is among the lowest achieving 5% for three consecutive years, the state school reform/redesign officer shall order the district to implement one of the school intervention models.

Finally, the bill bans the extension of any contract with the Education Achievement Authority and requires the district to withdraw from the interlocal agreement as soon as possible.

We are pleased with the changes that were made and will continue to work with the sponsor and the House to make sure a reasonable package is passed in time to assist the district before the beginning of a new school year. However, the fate of this proposal in the House is unknown at this time.

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