The plan sends $615 million to pay off the district’s debts and to transition to a new school system. It also returns control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state emergency management.
Governor Rick Snyder, who favored other approaches early on, said he would approve the package. “This is a new day for education in Michigan’s comeback city,” he said via a statement released by his office.
But state Senator Morris Hood (D-Detroit) said the Republican plan restores local control only to set up the district and its students for failure. “This is not the answer!” he said in an emotional speech. “But this is the crap that you shove down our throats, and you shove down their throats.”
“This arrangement is little more than a stay of execution,” said state Senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn). “Once the money runs out, and it will run out, the district will plunge back into debt and jeopardize the future of Detroit’s children.”
Opponents say the plan doesn’t control the proliferation of low-performing charter schools, which siphon money from the district, and it doesn’t help students with transportation to school. It also includes some anti-union provisions aimed at teachers who engaged in sickouts after the district failed to set aside money from their paychecks to pay them through the summer.
The plan was a stark contrast to a bipartisan approach adopted earlier by the Senate. The bailout appeared deadlocked until Governor Rick Snyder paid a visit to a closed-door Senate Republican caucus. They emerged and put the GOP-only package up for a vote.
“Without legislative action, Detroit Public Schools would be headed toward bankruptcy,” argued state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive). “Bankruptcy of the state’s largest school district would cost billions of dollars and result in funding cuts for every student in every school district of Michigan.”