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Republicans Spar with Snyder, State Education Chief Over Detroit Schools

Michigan Public Radio Network

There’s a deep divide at the state Capitol over plans to rescue Detroit Public Schools. 

The governor hopes to sell lawmakers on a plan to restructure DPS and have the state pay off its massive debt. He says state-appointed emergency managers drove up that debt. During a presentation to lawmakers on Wednesday, state Superintendent Brian Whiston said he agrees with that approach.

“If we don’t do this, if we just keep loaning money, if we don’t actually take and pay off the debt, four or five years from now we’re going to be in a much worse case – maybe bankruptcy – and we’re going to take a gigantic pill to swallow,”

said Whiston. But Republicans, such as state Representative Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp.), say districts across the state shouldn’t have to bail out DPS.

“I think that the command-and-control is what we’ve already had enough of,”

said Kelly, who served as Gov. John Engler’s education policy advisor.

“And I think that nothing should be taken off the table, including things that might even be prohibited by our constitution.”

Kelly is pushing his own plan to help Detroit schools. It would accomplish something similar to a voucher system – which the Michigan constitution prohibits.

“The governor closes – what I would perceive as closing - the door to choice,” he said. “I try to open it back up.”

Kelly’s plan also calls on the governor to “aggressively implement” the state’s reform/redesign district that is supposed to take over schools in the bottom five percent.

It urges the state to close bad charter schools, but create more good charters. It would create a new set of state-imposed standards specific to schools in Detroit – something the governor has also called for.

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