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Michigan Senate faces pressure to vote on DPS rescue

Chad Livengood, and Jonathan Oosting

Lansing — The Michigan Senate faces pressure to vote this week on a $617 million plan to pay off Detroit Public Schools debt and return the state’s largest school system to a locally elected school board.

The Republican-controlled Senate could vote as early as Tuesday on a House-approved plan to rescue the financially ailing Detroit school district. Gov. Rick Snyder is urging quick action this week because Michigan’s largest school district faces a cash shortage that could lead to payless paydays for employees in July.

Senators return to Lansing after spending two days last week on Mackinac Island for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference while the Michigan House approved a revised DPS rescue plan late Thursday night.

The House’s plan includes $150 million in transition funding for a new debt-free Detroit school district to fix buildings, invest in academic programs and manage cash flow issues that have fueled the district’s need to borrow tens of millions of dollars each year.

Senate Republicans have to decide whether to accept a House GOP plan that does not include a long-sought Detroit Education Commission to regulate the placement of traditional and charter schools across the city.

“The Senate majority leader ... thinks this latest plan is a realistic compromise between the House and Senate proposals,” said Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

Sen. Goeff Hansen, a west Michigan Republican who fought vigorously last week to preserve the commission, did not want to talk Friday about the House plan and how the Senate may react.

“I’m declining to comment,” said Hansen, R-Hart.

The Republican-negotiated package calls for school board elections in November but does not include a Senate-approved education commission, backed by Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Snyder said the survival of the Detroit district shouldn’t get bogged down on one issue.

“I continue to support the Senate package, but I hope people don’t look at just the House action as a negative — there’s huge positives there,” Snyder said Friday. “It really gives people in Detroit back their school system with significant resources with the debt being repaid, plus investment dollars.”

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, said late Thursday after the six-bill package cleared the lower chamber that he “wouldn’t have put them up for a vote if I didn’t have confidence” of Senate passage.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

joosting@detroitnews.com