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DPS supplemental headed to governor’s desk

March 29, 2016

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

Both chambers Thursday passed a modified version of the House proposal to use $48.7 million left over in the state’s tobacco settlement fund to keep Detroit Public Schools (DPS) open for the rest of the school year.

Thursday morning, the Senate altered the House’s emergency funding plan, HB 5385, to only rope the Detroit Financial Review Commission into oversight of the school district’s finances if an emergency manager is not already overseeing DPS.

The House version of HB 5385 originally stated that the FRC would oversee the finances of both the old school district and, if created, the new school district.

Changes made by the Senate stipulate that the oversight piece only applies to DPS as it stands and would not impact the new school district outlined in reform packages, if it is created.

HB 5385 passed 95-13 in the House, with Reps. Brian Banks (D-Detroit), John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Charles Brunner (D-Bay City), Wendell Byrd (D- Detroit), Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit), LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit), Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), Rose Mary Robinson (D-Detroit), Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (D- Detroit) and Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park) voting against.

HB 5296 passed 104-4 with Reps. Bizon, Lee Chatfield (R- Levering), Triston Cole  R-Mancelona) and Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) voting against.

Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn) was absent.

In the Senate, HB 5296, the appropriations portion of the plan, passed 29-7, with Sens. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.), Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan), Joe Hune (R-Hamburg), Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) voting against the bill.

HB 5385, the oversight piece of the plan, passed the upper chamber with changes 26-10, with Casperson, Colbeck, Emmons, Hune, Pavlov, Rocca and Democratic Sens. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit), Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor), Virgil Smith Jr. (D-Detroit) and Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) voting against the legislation.

DPS Transition Manager Steve Rhodes told lawmakers nine days ago the school would not have the money to pay their teachers after April 8, spurring creation of the legislation to tide the district over through the end of the school year.

The bills are headed to the Governor’s desk for signature.

In a statement, Gov. Rick Snyder said he appreciates the Legislature working quickly to approve the funding, but stressed that the situation can’t end here.

“The kids of Detroit need to be in school and learning if they are to have a brighter future, and the bipartisan support for this funding shows how important the issue is to everyone,” he said. “This supplemental funding doesn’t change the fact that a long-term legislative solution is still needed to bring about fiscal stability and responsibility as well as improved academic outcomes within DPS.”

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said the way the original House package was framed put the financial oversight commission over the emergency manager.

Two levels of financial oversight seemed unnecessary, he said, so both chambers came to a compromise.

The supplemental funding is a “good first place to start,” Meekhof said, adding that he looks forward to getting the discussion going on the full reform package.

House Speaker Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said he understood that some felt having both an emergency manager and Financial Review Commission in place at the same time “was a bit duplicative.”

 “I felt the Senate changes were very minor,” Cotter said. In addition to the emergency manager language, the Senate also removed language giving the FRC oversight of the district’s academics, which Cotter said he was “O.K. with.”

Cotter also said he hopes the House’s full package would be done before the end of summer.

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