Lawmaker Denounces Republican 'Solution' to Highland Park Financial Emergency

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LANSING - State Representative David E. Rutledge (Ypsilanti) today spoke out against legislation authorizing the State of Michigan to issue one-time vouchers to families in the Highland Park School District. The bill was rushed through the House and the Senate late this afternoon, passing 63-45 in the House and 23-13 in the Senate.

“This so-called ‘solution’ treats this terrible situation like it’s a political opportunity,” Rutledge said. “The financial emergency is real, and it must be addressed. But there is no question: it is the result of actions this Legislature took to undermine public education in Michigan. In 2011, schools were cut drastically, just to give businesses a $1.8 billion tax cut. Schools are struggling, losing state dollars, losing students, and what’s being compromised most is these kids’ education.”

House Bill 4445 permits the state to implement a complex voucher system, forcing parents to rush to choose another school or stay with Highland Park for the remainder of the year. If the bill is signed into law, parents have until Mar. 5 to decide whether to stay with the district. The legislation grants wide latitude to outside districts to refuse Highland Park students’ enrollment, giving a district the power to do so “at its discretion.” Democratic lawmakers proposed allocating the necessary resources through a fiduciary outside of the district so students could finish the remaining three months of the academic year, at which point alternative solutions could be considered without disrupting student learning.

“The urgency of this problem is not the fault of Highland Park students, or their families, or their teachers,” said Rutledge. “It came about because the state did not follow its own laws.” The Ingham Circuit Court ruled last week that the state’s actions violated the Open Meetings Act.

“Instead of simply helping the district until there was time to consider all options, this convoluted approach could force the Highland Park district to dissolve completely,” said Rutledge.