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Michigan Senate Could Vote On Detroit Schools Bailout

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The state Senate could vote this week on a Detroit Public Schools bailout plan, even though it’s a departure from the bipartisan compromise already adopted by the chamber.  

This new plan is a Republican-only proposal that cleared the state House last week with no support from Democrats.  Their main complaint is there’s no control over the location of new charter schools in the city, but there are also anti-labor provisions, many aimed at teachers who engaged in sickouts after they learned the district had not set aside money from their paychecks to continue paying them through the summer.

This new version is opposed by Democrats, teachers' unions, metro Detroit’s business lobby, and Detroit Mayor MikeDuggan

House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said last week he would not have put the package up for a vote without assurances it would be adopted by the Senate. 

Senate Republican spokeswoman Amber McCannsays the caucus needs to take a look at this new direction.  “I think they’re still digesting the details,” she said.  “I think there will be a lengthy discussion about the changes that were made from the plan passed by the Senate a while ago, and I expect we will try to vote on DPS this week in the Senate.” 

The plan would set aside $617 million to pay off the district’s debts before it defaults at the end of the month and to aid the transition to a new school system.  It also returns control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of emergency management.

Democrats like state Senator DavidKnezek (D-Dearborn Heights) say the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.  “That’s not a serious plan,” he said.  “It’s not the best we can do by the children of Detroit.  We need to go back to the drawing board, and come up with a better solution.”  

Knezek says the Senate should stand with the earlier version it adopted.

Governor Rick Snydersays he’d prefer a version that includes a commission that would decide whether and where low-performing charter operators would be allowed to open schools.  But he says, even without that provision, the plan before the state Senate represents progress. 

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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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