Detroit Reps. Support Passage of DPS Supplemental

Legislators approve funding, but call for return to local control of schools
Thursday, March 24, 2016

LANSING — State Representatives Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) and Brian Banks (D-Detroit) voiced support today for portions of the supplemental appropriation bill, House Bill 5296, which passed the Senate earlier this week and was then passed again in the House today. The bill first passed the House last week, and then returned following Senate changes in the language regarding the controversial Detroit Financial Review Commission (FRC). The bill is meant to provide bridge funding to Detroit Public Schools (DPS), which was set to run out of money in April without immediate intervention. While the representatives were both in favor of the appropriation, which will allow the district to function for the remainder of the school year, both voiced concern regarding the expansion of FRC powers.

“The fact that we were able to secure this appropriation quickly is a sign that the Legislature is finally beginning to take the issues with DPS seriously, and as a former Detroit educator, I am grateful for that,” said Rep. Gay-Dagnogo, Urban Education Reform Advisory chair. “But the key issue is that these crises were created by poor state management, and so it is troubling that this money — which was a necessity — is dependent on increasing the percentage of what the state manages. I am hoping that as we continue to discuss DPS in the coming months, the conversation becomes more inclusive.”

The $48.7 million appropriation is set to come from tobacco settlement money, but stipulates that in order for the money to be expended, a financial review commission would need to be in place for DPS. In the Senate, language to an accompanying bill, House Bill 5385, was changed to allow this oversight to be conducted by either the FRC, or the emergency manager. HB 5385 expands the current FRC, which oversaw the bankruptcy process for the city of Detroit, to include oversight of DPS as well.

 “I cannot support another layer of bureaucracy with a FRC,” said Rep. Banks, chairman of the Detroit Caucus. “But once again, we’re looking at a situation where state government has said ‘We know what is better for you than you do,’ to the key stakeholders in DPS. This kind of thinking has failed us repeatedly, and in order to move forward it has to change. I look forward to being a continued part of these discussions, and to working with my colleagues to make sure that all voices — including the voices of those whom this legislation directly affects — are heard.”