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Gov. Snyder goes all Mick Jagger: You can’t always get what you want…

Governor Rick Snyder is trying to make the best of it as a plan he endorsed to try and save the Detroit Public Schools is starting to look like it isn’t going to happen.

The Detroit Public Schools are in financial crisis. The district could go into default - bankruptcy is even an option - if the the state Legislature doesn’t adopt a bailout plan this month. If that happens, it’s possible tens of thousands of students in the city could be without a school to go to come fall.

Snyder, like Governors John Engler (R) and Jennifer Granholm (D) before him, has become bogged down in the seemingly intractable dilemma of how to fix Detroit’s schools.

As the latest iteration of this newest debate on DPS plays out this week in Lansing, Snyder is confronted by the reality that the aforementioned “fix” is a lot less than what he and his metro-Detroit business allies were hoping for.

Now, there is a plan that was adopted by the state Senate that Republicans and Democrats and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Governor Snyder have gotten behind. That’s not the one up for a vote this week.

House Republicans rejected that plan almost on arrival and came up with not one, but two GOP-only proposals that scrapped key portions of the Senate plan, and added in some anti-labor codicils, to boot.

The big issue has been what do about charter schools in the city. DPS schools aren’t doing that great, but neither are most charters. A key portion of the Senate plan would have put a locally named commission in charge of deciding where operators could open new schools -- unless they’re top performers, in which case they could open where they wanted.  

That matters because there are parts of Detroit where schools are clustered, while other areas are just bereft and students in those parts basically have nowhere to go.

This is a matter of philosophy and politics, with principles at stake, certainly, but also campaign donations from business groups supporting compromise and charter advocates who would gladly see a dramatic free market education experiment play out in Detroit.

Politics has been described as the “art of the possible.” But, truth be told, it is the art of what’s possible right now.  And, Governor Snyder seems to have accepted this is all he is going to get right now.

His new goal: “Let’s make sure we can get a package done that can pass with a majority in both the House and the Senate,” he says.

Which has been the case before with this Republican Governor and this Republican-led Legislature. Much like the deal over road funding that seemed to take up so much of the political bandwidth in Lansing until it was resolved with an awkward compromise that led to a (many say unfinished) roads plan.

Here, we have many of the same elements - debate in both the state House and the state Senate, a Republican Party at odds with itself, and a governor who just can’t seem to get a critical mass to sign on to his vision of things.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
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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