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Lansing effort to fund DPS sees differing bills in House and Senate

May 3, 2016

This week's Detroit teacher sickout protests have renewed pressure on state lawmakers to lead the struggling Detroit Public Schools out of its financial hole.

GOP lawmakers in the House expressed frustration with the labor stoppage, which started after teachers were informed the district might not be able to cover their paychecks after June 30.

The House plan would allocate $500 million to help the school district pay off its debts. It would also erode the power of the teachers’ union.

State Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, took aim at Detroit teachers who engaged in the sickout after they learned payless paydays could be in store if the district runs out of money at the end the of next month. Poleski said that’s no excuse.

“Their actions have been grossly unprofessional," he said. "It is educational malpractice.” 

Julie Rowe is with the American Federation of Teachers. She says teachers are also frustrated.

“Teachers want to teach,” she said. “They want to be in the classrooms.”

Democrats also say the House GOP plan doesn’t cover a deficit that may have grown as high as $800 million while the district was under the control of state-appointed emergency managers. 

Democrats and the teachers union say it’s the district and the state that are at fault. The Detroit schools have been under the control of a state-appointed manager for the past eight years.

"We just need the state to pay the portion that it was responsible for when we were under management of the state," said DPS teacher Sarah Jardine, who spoke with Michigan Radio Monday

Leading the DPS funding effort on the Senate side is Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart. 

This week, the NAACP honored Hansen with the Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Award for his efforts to save DPS. 

Hansen spoke with Stateside Tuesday and discussed his hope that the teachers get paid soon.

"We don't have time to wait," he said. "We can't lose any more time with these kids. We need to make sure they get their education."

Hansen said he was familiar with the DPS situation, having dealt with a similar issue in his district of Muskeegon Heights. 

Hansen hopes the Legislature acts fast.

"Some people just want to blow everything up and let it all go," he said. "We can't do that. We have 47,000 kids that need a great education."