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DPS Bills Signed Into Law With No Hats Or Horns

June 28, 2016

At first they thought about signing it in Detroit.

Then they thought about doing it in the Governor’s press auditorium in front of the media, but they finally concluded Gov. Rick SNYDER would put pen to paper in private, thus placing into law the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) rescue package with no audience at all.

The executive office confirmed Snyder signed the controversial legislation to allow DPS Transition Manager Steven RHODES to “get on with the business” of turning DPS around.

After considering and then rejecting Detroit as a venture for the bill signing it was thought a low-keyed event with the House Speaker Kevin COTTER (R-Mt. Pleasant) and Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) would be the way to go.

However Meekhof was “busy in the district” and couldn’t come. Instead, Cotter, Rep. Amanda PRICE (R-Park Twp.) and Daniela GARCIA (R-Holland) were among the small contingent of staffers present at the bill signing. State Treasurer Nick KHOURI also was at the bill signing.

“DPS bills avoid bankruptcy, pay off debt, return local control and make strong reforms to protect MI taxpayers,” Cotter tweeted.

The bill signing included no sitting Senators or legislators from Detroit. 

Garcia said difficult decisions were made throughout the process with the goal of improving education in Detroit. She said it’s now the responsibility “of everyone who advocated for legislative action, including the children, families, teachers, city leaders and other stakeholders to work together to ensure the success of our state’s largest public school district.”

The DPS package turns the district into an entity that manages the school’s roughly $500 million debt and transfers the district’s students, teachers, administrators and staff to a new Detroit Community Schools.

It pays off $465 million in DPS’ remaining debt over 10 years and steers $150 million to the new public school district. The package dissolves the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) after next year. It returns the district to a new elected school board that is overseen by the same financial oversight body as the city of Detroit.

A mayoral-appointed Detroit Education Commission (DEC) to control the opening and closing of schools is not part of the package, the biggest problem Democrats had with the bills.

The new law will allow the new Detroit Community Schools to hire uncertified teachers if they choose and to institute a “merit pay” system for its employees.

But will the money the state pledged to send to Detroit schools be enough?

Rep. Sherry GAY-DAGNOGO (D-Detroit) says no. DPS’ financial debt is not “adequately addressed” in the bills signed Tuesday.

Rather, it “further subjects Detroit children to a subpar education, allowing the placement of uncertified teachers, in addition to subjecting teachers to unfair conditions and unfair labor practices, without returning the loans that teachers made to the district.”

The teachers’ union for Detroit teachers pointed their rhetorical arrows straight at the charter school movement and the politically powerful DeVos family in particularly.

Union officials say the new laws will not address the growth of poor-performing schools or hold charter schools accountable to the same standards as traditional public schools.

A joint statement was released this evening from American Federation of Teachers President Randi WEINGARTEN, Detroit Federation of Teachers interim President Ivy BAILEY and AFT Michigan President David HECKER called the bills a “shameful example of partisan politics trumping our responsibility to provide a fair opportunity for Detroit’s children and a fair shake for the educators and school staff who dedicate their careers to serving those children.”

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