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House Passes Detroit Public Schools Reform Bills

Jun 03, 2016

Following several hours of session, negotiations, and caucusing, the House was able to muster enough votes to pass a package of legislation making numerous reforms to Detroit Public Schools. The package, which contains three House and three Senate bills, was initially passed by the House last month.  However, yesterday the House requested the return of the bills from the Senate, made changes to the legislation, and passed the new versions.

The package creates a new district, Detroit Community Schools (DCS), which would handle the daily operations of the city’s schools.  The current Detroit Public School (DPS) district would remain only to pay off debt.  The House approved an appropriation of $150 million to get DCS set up and for building improvements and $465 million to DPS to pay off debt.  Local elections would be held in November for school board members, who would be responsible for running DCS.   The board would take office in January 2017 and appoint a superintendent.  Until that time, a state-appointed transition manager would run the new district.

One of the more hotly contested aspects of the legislation is the lack of inclusion of a commission to oversee the opening and closing of schools within the district.  Proponents of the authority state there needs to be oversight as to where schools are opening and closing, as some students currently have to travel quite far to get to a school, while other areas are filled with too many schools.  Previously both Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan have voiced support of this type of a commission to provide oversight.  Opponents of such oversight, including charter schools, state that type administration is not necessary.  The House plan would instead create a council to study and report on where schools are needed, but they would have no authority beyond advising.

An additional controversial piece of the package allows for non-certified teachers to teach at Detroit schools, which was proposed to help with the teacher shortfall in the city.  However, nowhere else in the state is this allowed and the Democratic caucus voiced strong concerns and disapproval with this proposal.

The bills will be sent once again to the Senate for their consideration which is anticipated next week.

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