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House passes Republican Detroit schools bill; Democrats blast plan

The Michigan House of Representatives.
steve carmody
Michigan Radio

The Michigan state House narrowly passed a bill to bail out Detroit Public Schools tonight. But critics complain the plan does more for charter schools than Detroit kids.

The main bill in the package passed by a razor-thin margin, 55 to 53 votes.    

The legislation would allocate more than $600 million for the district, including $150 million to help transition Detroit schools to a new district.  

The school system has been under state control for the past seven years. 

House Speaker Kevin Cotter says the plan will help the district succeed.

“It’s going to take effort,” Cotter told reporters after the vote. “I believe this is going to give them a reasonable chance. But people have to continue to work to raise the outcome that we see. Money doesn’t buy the results.”

But House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel blasted the plan. He complains House Republicans gave in to special interests, in particular charter school backers.

One key difference is the creation of a Detroit Education Commission, which the Senate supports and the House does not.

“It’s disappointing we’re seeing this massive waste of state taxpayer dollars by throwing money at the Detroit Public Schools system without enacting the needed reforms to help the district succeed,” Greimel said.

The House plan faces its own hurdles to succeed in the state Senate, which has its own plan that differs in important ways.

One key difference is the creation of a Detroit Education Commission, which the Senate supports and the House does not. The Commission would have authority over charter and public schools in Detroit.

The Senate plan has the support of the Detroit teachers' union.

David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan and Ivy Bailey, interim president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, issued a joint statement after the vote:

“The initial Senate bill gained community, business and bipartisan support because its intention is to improve education for Detroit children. That is clearly not the intention of this bill, which is a recipe for disaster and seeks to dismantle public education in Detroit. It is not a solution. Michigan Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin Cotter, are doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”

But the House plan is getting praise from the charter school community.

“Every child in Detroit is closer to having more opportunities for their future thanks to the Michigan House of Representatives, who were successful tonight in preserving choices and options for them and their families, said Gary Naeyaert, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Project

The clock is ticking.  

The Detroit Public School district is expected to run out of money by June 30th.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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