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School officials could support tapping School Aid Fund for DPS with assurances

Nov 19, 2015

Credit Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Some local school officials in Michigan would be OK with tapping the state’s School Aid Fund to help Detroit Public Schools pay down debt. That’s if they get some assurances.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal would tap the state’s School Aid Fund to pay for the measure. School leaders outside Detroit have balked at that idea – saying the plan shouldn’t come at the expense of every other Michigan student.

But some say they could support the plan if it also protects that fund from being used for things other than K-12 education.

“If the School Aid Fund isn’t being diverted for universities, I would support,” said Saginaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Kathy Stewart.

Lawmakers and the governor have diverted money from the School Aid Fund to pay for higher education and patch holes elsewhere in the budget.

Don Wotruba, the executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, says the trade-off makes sense.

“I think it becomes a more palatable discussion for districts to take $50-a-kid of growth money and turn it over to DPS to help them be successful if we know that somebody else can’t come in and take School Aid Fund money for another purpose,” said Wotruba.

Wotruba says recent budgets have diverted about $200 per pupil or more from the fund – far more than districts would have to give up for the DPS plan.

The Michigan Association of School Boards has not taken an official position on the idea.