School District Dissolution Bills Hurt Michigan Children

Legislation lacks compromise, proper time for consideration
Friday, June 14, 2013

LANSING — State Representatives David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti) and Collene Lamonte (D-Montague), a member of the House Education Committee, regretfully opposed House Bills 4813 and 4815, which deal with dissolving school districts in financial difficulty. The bills put the fate of districts into the hand of one or two officials and lack objectivity in determining whether to dissolve a district. Both bills passed 58-49 and now move to the state Senate.

Rutledge introduced HB 4813 and co-sponsored HB 4815 with a Republican colleague in an effort to come to the negotiating table and work on meaningful reforms in a bipartisan way. However, the when the dialog broke down, other legislators refused to compromise and moved forward without Rutledge’s approval.

“My goal with this legislation was to help the parents, the teachers and, most importantly, the children of these struggling districts move forward so those kids could continue receiving the education they deserve,” Rutledge said. “It saddens me deeply that I have to oppose these bills and remove my name from the sponsorship of House Bill 4813.”

Rather than giving the issue the time and consideration it deserves, House Republicans felt it better to rush the bills through the House so that legislators could begin their summer recess early.

“Apparently, some of my colleagues felt it more important to go on vacation rather than take the time to get something right on such an important issue,” Lamonte said. “I can’t think of anything more crucial than making sure our children get the education they deserve so they can make their way in the world. These bills will only add to the turmoil our kids have had to deal with, and I cannot support that.”

HBs 4813 and 4815 put the decision of whether a district can deal with its debt at the sole discretion of the state treasurer and superintendent, and they offer no alternative for struggling districts other than being dissolved. The bills discourage local school boards from engaging in other efforts to save their districts, such as loan modification. In addition, school districts deemed financially insolvent could be absorbed into the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), an entity running 15 troubled schools in Detroit with dubious results. Schools could also be handed over to a charter operator to be run on a for-profit basis, putting the bottom line ahead of our kids’ education.

“Too many of our schools are in dire straits financially, but these bills don’t get to the root of the problem, which is the severe funding cuts these schools have seen in the last few years,” Rutledge said. “Instead of dealing with how to dissolve a district, we should be working to restore the necessary funding so we can properly educate our children.”