LANSING — State Representative Fred Durhal III (D-Detroit) voiced support today for portions of the supplemental appropriation bill, House Bill 5296, which passed the House and is now heading to the Senate. The bill is meant to provide bridge funding to Detroit Public Schools (DPS), which will run out of money in April without immediate intervention. While the representative applauded the $48.7 million offered to the schools, he spoke out against the stipulation that the money only be granted if the powers of the Detroit Financial Review Commission (FRC) are expanded.
“This money was necessary, and I’m grateful that it is getting to our students and teachers before DPS was forced to close its doors,” said Rep. Durhal. “But that doesn’t mean that everything about this bill was good, or beneficial. It’s unfortunate that a bill designed to prevent the worst from happening — one that was necessary because state control has driven this district into the ground — would be saddled with another partisan approach to governance.”
The $48.7 million appropriation is set to come from tobacco settlement money, and is related to larger package recently proposed by House Republicans. HB 5296 stipulates that in order for the $48.7M to be expended, a financial review commission would need to be in place for DPS, much like the one created in House Bill 5385, which passed at the same time. HB 5385 expands the current FRC, which since its bankruptcy has overseen Detroit, to include oversight of DPS as well. Among its provisions, this expansion would strip elected school boards of the right to approve or deny the appointment of a superintendent, a critical component of maintaining local control.
“Local control is key. Our citizens deserve the right to have the board that has been elected to make academic decisions, actually make those academic decisions, including who will run the district,” said Rep. Durhal. “The FRC is meant to handle financial matters, not academic ones. I appreciate the Republicans’ desire for oversight, but if we use Detroit’s emergency from bankruptcy as a model, as it relates to the FRC, we need to mirror a plan that works. We don’t need another experiment at the expense of our children. We need to do something different. Our parents, teachers and students deserve better.”