Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
Thursday evening, the Michigan House of Representatives reconsidered, amended, and re-passed several bills pertaining to the Detroit Public Schools (“DPS”) that it had already passed last month.
The newly re-passed House bills would still split the district into a NewDPS (to educate pupils) and an OldDPS (to pay down the district’s operating debt with revenue generated from the 18-mill operating tax on non-homestead property in Detroit).
The amended House bills would provide a loan of $150 million (up from the House’s original loan amount of $33 million) to pay for the district’s transitional operating costs. But the bill would cap the portion of this loan that could be spent on school building maintenance at $25 million. It is important to note that the $150 million in loan debt would be added to the already-existing $467 million in DPS operational debt, meaning that OldDPS would actually have to pay back $617 million in debt with the non-homestead property tax revenue.
The amended House bills would provide this same amount—$617 million—from the state’s tobacco settlement award to backfill the local portion of NewDPS’s per-pupil allowance. At $72 million per year, this funding would last for about 8.5 years (compare this to the Senate plan, which would provide $72 million per year, but would not cap the number of years or the total amount available). It is estimated that it will take OldDPS about 10 years to repay the district’s operating debt with the non-homestead property tax revenue, and NewDPS would not acquire the authority to levy the 18-mill school operating tax until after the conclusion of this 10-year debt repayment period. Thus, it is simply unclear how NewDPS would survive after 8.5 years—the point in time when the annual $72-million payments would run out under the amended House bills. It appears to me that the Michigan House of Representatives—by refusing to provide a full 10 years’ worth of funding for NewDPS even though NewDPS will not be able to raise its own operating revenue for approximately 10 years—has designed its plan to intentionally cripple the new district.
The amended House bills purport to restore local control, but do not return any power to the current democratically elected Detroit Board of Education. In fact, the House bills would completely dissolve the current DPS school board, instead requiring Detroit voters to elect a brand new school board to govern NewDPS at the November 2016 general election. This new school board would consist of seven members, elected districtwide, who would take office on January 1, 2017. As soon as the seven new board members take office, the existing DPS school board would be abolished; the new board would operate both NewDPS and OldDPS concurrently until such a time as the operating debt is finally paid off and OldDPS is eliminated (i.e., about 10 years).
The new school board’s powers would be significantly limited by the oversight of the Financial Review Commission. The Financial Review Commission would be required to approve the selection of a chief financial officer for NewDPS, and the school board would not be permitted to terminate the superintendent without the Financial Review Board’s approval.
The amended House bills would not create a Detroit Education Commission, but would provide for an “advisory council” to make recommendations concerning the use of school facilities, the siting of schools, and other related matters. Unlike the Detroit Education Commission contained in the Senate plan, the advisory council would not have any involvement in the establishment of an “A” through “F” letter grading system for Detroit schools. Instead, the State School Reform Officer would have the sole responsibility to create the letter grading system. Subject to a limited exception, the State School Reform Officer would be required to order the closure of traditional public schools that receive poor letter grades under this system for three consecutive years. Curiously, however, charter schools that receive poor letter grades for three consecutive years would not necessarily be required to close, as any charter school undergoing “reconstitution” would be exempt from the bill’s provisions regarding closure and notice by the State School Reform Officer to the charter authorizer.
The amended House bills would terminate the Education Achievement Authority (“EAA”) in name, but provide immense new powers to the State School Reform Officer, a direct appointee of the governor who possesses most of the same powers as the EAA and an emergency manager combined.
In addition, the amended House bills would allow the hiring of noncertified, nonendorsed individuals to teach in NewDPS classrooms, and would require the Michigan Department of Education to waive student-teaching requirements and provide provisional teaching certification to any such individuals after three years of working in the district.
The amended bills would also institute a system of merit pay for newly hired NewDPS teachers and administrators, linking their salaries to their annual performance evaluations. The bills would require NewDPS to “implement and maintain a method of compensation that includes job performance and job accomplishments as the primary factor in determining compensation and additional compensation.”
A companion bill would provide stricter penalties for striking school employees, authorize the Michigan Employment Relations Commission or circuit court to fine striking teachers and issue other orders, and empower the attorney general to bring actions to enjoin unlawful strikes.
Unlike the plan passed by the Michigan House last month, Thursday’s amended House bill would not cancel the collective bargaining agreement between DPS and the teachers’ union upon transition to NewDPS. The amended bill specifically provides that the NewDPS “acquires, succeeds to, and assumes all of the rights, duties, and obligations under a collective bargaining agreement applicable to [the existing DPS] on the transfer date,” that “[t]he terms and conditions of that collective bargaining agreement . . . shall be the terms and conditions applicable to employees of [NewDPS],” that “[NewDPS] shall be the successor employer for employees of [the existing DPS] on the transfer date,” and that “an individual who is entitled to employment by [the existing DPS] on the transfer date shall be entitled to employment by [NewDPS] following the transfer to [NewDPS].”
As always, Fix The Mitten will provide further details as they become available.