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Michigan school system almost out of cash, legislators work to keep kids in classes

Governor Rick Snyder and leaders in the Legislature hope to begin voting tomorrow on a plan to keep Highland Park students in school when the district runs out of money this week.

Control of the district reverted to the school board after Snyder removed the emergency manager to comply with a court ruling.

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said the district won’t get any more money while the school board is in charge.

He said the district is guilty of mismanaging its funds.

Bolger said the best option is for the emergency manager to be re-appointed, and for students to keep attending classes in their current buildings.

“The bottom line is we have to craft a result that those kids are educated throughout the remainder of this year,” said Bolger. “So, the question is open at this point: does the emergency manager come in and is he able to make sure that these kids are educated? Or do we have to look for another alternative?”

Snyder wants the Legislature to approve funding for Highland Park parents to send their children to another district or a charter school.

The plan could ultimately call for the emergency manager to be re-installed, and to sign an agreement with a charter operator or another district to run Highland Park’s schools.

Teachers at Highland Park schools could be asked to work without pay while Governor Snyder and the Legislature craft the crisis plan.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D- Highland Park) said the top priority is making sure kids don’t miss school.

“Number one, there’s going to have to be a conversation with teachers in the school district who, in fact, may face a payless payday, to say that we need you to continue to come to school,” said Johnson. “This solution is going to probably be no more than a week in the making. You certainly can’t ask people to work for nothing, but you can ask for them to work on a promissory note to understand that they’re going to get paid.”

Efforts to reach someone to speak for the teachers’ union were not successful.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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