LANSING (AP) – State officials could dissolve a deficit-ridden school district and send the students to nearby schools under legislation approved late Thursday in the Michigan House.
The bills, passed 58-49 almost entirely along party lines after 11 p.m. in the Republican-controlled chamber, are designed to address two struggling districts in the Detroit and Saginaw areas. But the measure also could have implications for other schools running deficits down the line.
The Inkster and Buena Vista districts face the prospect of not having enough money to reopen for classes in September.
The legislation would let the state school superintendent and state treasurer jointly determine to dissolve a district with fewer than 2,500 students that is deemed not to be “financially viable.” A district could not be dissolved unless it loses at least 10 percent of its enrollment from the previous school year under an amendment added to the bill.
The Senate could take up the measure next week before the Legislature’s summer break because school is going to start around the time they return to Lansing.
Buena Vista School District near Saginaw was forced to shut its doors for nearly two weeks in May after running out of money to pay teachers. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has complained that the state was criticized for the district staying closed so long when its hands were tied by the law.
One bill was sponsored initially by a Democrat, Rep. David Rutledge of Ypsilanti, but he removed his support because Republicans denied Democrats’ request that teachers and employees in a dissolved district get first crack at jobs in whatever district the students end up in.
“This legislation puts Michigan students first and will ensure that all children have a school to attend in the fall regardless of where they live,” said another bill sponsor, Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton. “While we can’t bail out every district that mismanages their finances, we can give these kids a better option than sitting on a curb waiting for a school to open.”
Rutledge said he wanted to address what would happen to both kids and the staff in a dissolved district.
“It in my view makes this bill very much not doable in a way that makes sense to those local districts,” he said.
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