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Detroit Schools Bill Faces Skeptical Michigan Senate

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A controversial GOP plan to overhaul Detroit’s schools has landed in thestate Senateand is getting a skeptical reception. 

The plan was muscled through the state House in a marathon Wednesday night-Thursday morning session.  The House GOP plan takes aim at the teachers’ union, protectscharter schools in the city, and it offers less money than a bipartisan plan already adopted by the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans. 

“It’s quite a bit different, so we’re going to have to figure out those differences,” said Senate Majority Leader ArlanMeekhof (R-West Olive).  “They put it together relatively quickly, in 15 hours and we’ve got to unpack it, a lot of stuff.  We’ve got a lot of unpacking to do yet.  What I want to do is make sure it’s funded at a level and done in a way that we don’t come back to it.” 

Key differences include how much money the state would pony up; when control of the district is restored to an elected school board; and whether an appointed board should be allowed to shut down low-performing schools, including charters.

The Senate’s lead negotiators on the issue of the future of Detroit’s schools say they will try to come up with something that can win support from Republicans and Democrats. 

This is from Senator Geoff Hansen (R-Hart):

“I do have serious concerns with many aspects of the partisan package of bills passed by the House of Representatives. However, we will advance to the next phase of the legislative process and work toward a bipartisan solution that ensures strong, thriving education options for Detroit families. I will continue to recognize the perspectives and viewpoints of each of my legislative partners, but given the complexity of this issue, we must compromise.”

“We have to go back to the drawing table, to pull together the different factions to have conversations about this,” said Senator DavidKnezek (D-Dearborn Heights).  “The problem’s not going away. We have to show some leadership here, and get this done for the kids of Detroit.” 

The school district has been under the control of state-appointed managers for the past eight years. The school district is set to run out of money at the end of June. 

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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