Detroit Reps. Support Portions of DPS Supplemental

Legislators approve funding, discourage additional state oversight through FRC
Thursday, March 17, 2016

LANSING — State Representatives Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) Brian Banks (D-Detroit), LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit) and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (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 representatives applauded the $48.7 million offered to the schools, both spoke out against the stipulation that the money only be granted if the powers of the Detroit Financial Review Commission (FRC) are expanded.

“While I am appreciative of the support we’re seeing go to DPS, it is important to remember that this crisis was caused from years of mismanagement by the state,” said Rep. Gay-Dagnogo, Urban Education Reform Advisory chair. “So it is unfortunate to me that we’re choosing now to cover this deficit — which the state was responsible for — by offering money with the stipulation that we further expand state control. Those of us truly invested in the health of the district have repeatedly called for a more inclusive discussion of how to help DPS move forward, and by expanding the FRC, we are guaranteeing another extended period of Detroit voices being silenced by state authority.”

“There have been many opportunities to finally get things right in this oversight process,” said Rep. Banks, chairman of the Detroit Caucus. “And we are making slow progress. But then to stipulate that we only get that funding if we agree to more state management, sets that progress back significantly. There is already a distrust of the state among the community and local stakeholders, after everything that has happened, so to offer this money on the condition that the state take more control only hampers the mending of those relationships. I hope that as the conversation about DPS continues, we find better, more inclusive means of discourse.”

The $48.7 million appropriation is set to come from tobacco settlement money, and is related to larger package recently proposed by House Republicans. Among other bills in the package was a provision which would have separated DPS into two school districts — a new one to handle educating the district’s students, the old one left to solely manage the district’s debt. 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.

“For far too long, DPS teachers have been on the front lines of the countless details that comprise the learning experience,” said Rep. Garrett. “Today, I offered an amendment to rectify the more destructive portions of this bill, as a show of solidarity for those who have poured years of valued service into the district, and our children. With that amendment failing, it disappoints me that we’ve once again allowed accountants to devalue the lifetime investments of our teachers, and simultaneously place the system at greater risk of failure.”

“At the very least, I am happy to know that the teachers and students of DPS now have temporary relief, knowing that their school doors will be open through the end of the year,” said Rep. Tinsley-Talabi. “But we need to keep in mind that we have not reached a final solution — this is only a stepping stone, one of many, in a broader conversation about inclusiveness in the district. Seeing today that the money, which was a necessity, was only granted if oversight was expanded, indicates just how far we still have to go. I am hopeful that the Senate will devise a better oversight plan.”