Just a brief update. It's 4:45 a.m., and the Michigan House of Representatives has just finished passing its own DPS reorganization package. Like the competing package passed by the Michigan Senate last month, the House plan would split DPS into a New DPS to educate pupils, and an Old DPS to pay down current debt with the revenue generated from the district's 18-mill operating tax on non-homestead property. Also like the Senate plan, the House plan would include language authorizing any Michigan school district to outsource all educational functions and cease operating any of its own schools.
But the House package differs from the Senate legislation in several ways as well. The House package would provide only $33 million in loans, instead of more than $200 million in loans under the Senate package, for the district's transition costs. As envisioned, the House package would also provide $500 million for the New DPS's foundation allowance payments ($72 million per year for seven years), less than the $720 million that would be provided under the Senate package ($72 million per year for ten years). I say "as envisioned" because the plan passed does not yet include an exact dollar amount. Nevertheless, pursuant to separate legislation pending before the the House, it appears that the package would fund the local portion of the New DPS's foundation allowance in the amount of roughly $72 million per year through 2023.
Companion bills would create a new Community District Trust Fund, and would require the Financial Review Commission (chiefly appointed by the governor) to approve the superintendent hired for the New DPS. Local control would not be fully returned to Detroit's voters in the form of a democratically elected school board for several years, and even then the school board's powers would be significantly limited by the vast oversight powers of the Financial Review Commission.
The main bill would allow the hiring of noncertified, nonendorsed individuals to teach in any New DPS classroom, 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 with the district. In effect, therefore, it would create a miniature Teach-for-America-style program just for Detroit. It would also institute a system of merit pay for New DPS teachers, linking their salaries to their performance evaluations. Moreover, the New DPS would be prohibited from considering seniority and the attainment of advanced academic degrees in the determination of compensation for any of these new teachers. Note that these changes would not apply to teachers in any of Michigan's other 540 public school districts—only Detroit.
Another companion bill would have set forth prohibited subjects of bargaining for community district employees as originally proposed. However, the bill was amended to instead provide stricter penalties for striking teachers. Under that same bill, all new collective bargaining agreements drafted after the effective date of the legislation would be required to contain language warning employees that any future community district would not be a successor employer of the existing district, and would have no obligation to honor any individual contracts or collective bargaining agreements with existing teachers or employees in the existing district.
Because the contracts with current DPS employees already exist (or would by the time any legislation takes effect), and because the New DPS would be created almost immediately upon the effective date of the legislation, it does not appear that this provision would affect the ability of existing DPS teachers to work in the New DPS. Indeed, a different provision in the main bill, HB 5384 (H-1), would specify that "an individual who is entitled to employment by the qualifying school district on the transfer date shall be entitled to employment by the community district following the transfer to the community district." However, this does not mean that the terms and conditions of employment would remain the same in the new community district. The same bill contains language stating that "the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement applicable to school employees of the qualifying school district on the transfer date shall not be the terms and conditions applicable to employees of the community district, and the community district is not the successor employer for school employees of the qualifying school district on the transfer date."
The House plan would fund the local portion of the district’s foundation allowance for only seven years, as noted above. Thus, depending how long it takes for the Old DPS to pay off the operating debt (some estimates place this at 10 to 12 years), there could potentially be a gap of one or more years during which the New DPS would be left with no state funding to satisfy its foundation allowance, but would also have no authority to levy the 18-mill operating tax. On first glance, this would seem to be a glaring defect in the House plan. But, then again, I believe that the whole purpose of the House plan is to destroy and eliminate DPS altogether. So perhaps this defect was included intentionally.
Throughout the course of the early-morning hours, several Democratic amendments were offered from the floor, including proposed amendments (1) to add an Education Commission with authority over school siting decisions (as in the Senate legislation) to the House plan, (2) to remove the language allowing noncertified/nonendorsed individuals to teach in DPS classrooms, (3) to remove the language requiring the Financial Review Commission to approve the New DPS's choice of superintendent, (4) to require DPS to withdraw from the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) interlocal agreement, (5) to request that the United States Department of Justice conduct a forensic audit of the district's finances, and (6) to address the problem of transportation of pupils to and from school. Each of these Democratic amendments was hastily rejected on a party-line vote.
Oh, just one last thing for now: Although none of these House bills passed with 74 votes, each of them was ordered to take immediate effect if ultimately enacted and signed into law. The Michigan Constitution specifically states that a bill may not be given immediate effect unless it is approved by two-thirds of the members elected to and serving in each house of the Legislature. Most of these bills were approved by votes of 55-53, 57-51, 59-49, or 61-47. There are 110 members elected to and serving in the Michigan House of Representatives, meaning that two-thirds of the members elected and serving is 74. Someday, someone is going to have to explain to me how 55, 57, 59, or 61 is equal to 74.
I will provide additional details as I further break down this House legislation.