This week, the House and Senate granted approval to a package of legislation making reforms to Detroit Public Schools (DPS). The package previously passed by the House was vastly different from the Senate-passed proposal. For several days there was uncertainty as to if the Senate would have enough votes to pass the House’s new proposal. On Wednesday, following hours of session, caucusing, and a visit by Governor Rick Snyder to the Senate Republicans, the Senate gathered just enough favorable votes to pass the package. The Governor had encouraged members to vote for the package in order to avoid the more costly option of DPS filing for bankruptcy, a statement that helped bring enough members on board. However, Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart), who was the Senate’s lead on reforming Detroit schools, did not vote favorably for the main bill. Prior to passage, the Senate made a few minor changes to the package, including an assurance the School Aid Fund would be held harmless and clarifying the School Reform Officer doesn’t have the authority to close a charter school with a poor performance. The House voted to concur in the changes made by the Senate.
The approved proposal would create a new district, DPS would remain to pay off debt and the newly created Detroit Community Schools (DCS) would handle operations and education. Detroit would once again have an elected school board and once seated in January, the board would hire a new district superintendent. The final package includes the two most controversial aspects of the House’s proposal; the lack of authority for the Detroit Education Commission to approve or disapprove of locations that schools may open or close and the ability of the district to hire uncertified teachers. The bill package includes appropriations for retiring DPS debt and for the costs associated with setting up DCS. The legislation will be sent to Governor Rick Snyder for final consideration.
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