Detroit Public Schools Legislation Introduced

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Jan. 20, 2016

Senate Bills 710 and 711 were introduced by Sen. Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) on Thursday and are the first in a package of bills to address the Detroit Public Schools situation.

SB 710 is the main bill and includes a provision to divide the district into two. The first would be the original Detroit Public Schools and 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 would be the new Detroit Community Schools, which would take over the functions of the district and start out debt free. The bill does not include a plan for the state to help pay off the debt.

This bill also sets up the process to have the new school district governed by an elected board as of January 2017 with the election being held in November of this year—provided the bills are passed in time. The new board would consist of nine members and they would be elected from districts like the city council.

SB 711 would allow a financial review commission to have fiscal oversight of a qualified school district; as defined this would include the new Detroit Community Schools.

MASB Executive Director Don Wotruba issued the following statement yesterday in response to the bills:

“The introduction of these is a good first step, but we’re still a long ways from a solution that works for Detroit, the state of Michigan and our students. We hope this solution will come quickly as DPS can no longer wait to have a long-term fix in place. We appreciate this legislation restoring control back to a locally elected board this November, but until we address the district’s crippling debt and infrastructure, I fear we’re only setting up this board to fail.

“Where other districts across the state have the ability to invest in infrastructure, Detroit’s debt makes that next to impossible. Until we put forward a real plan to fix this issue, we will never have a long-term solution that gets Detroit Public Schools back to the thriving district it once was.

“DPS is not just a Detroit problem. The Flint water crisis is not just a Flint problem. For too long, the state has not adequately funded our municipalities and our schools. It has led to the crises we currently face. We owe it to our communities and to our children to do better by holding people accountable, and finding solutions that work. Every child in Michigan deserves a quality public education. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to address these issues, and ensure we are making the proper investments and providing safe environments for our children to learn and succeed.”

More legislation is expected to be introduced. MASB is still reviewing the details of the entire proposal and will keep you updated as the issue moves forward. At this time, we do not know when the bills will be brought up for debate.

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