The Latest: House passes $617 million Detroit schools plan

AP News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2016 9:49 PM

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Latest on legislation to rescue Detroit's school district (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

The Michigan House has narrowly approved compromise legislation to restructure the Detroit Public Schools and pay off $617 million in debt.

The House approved a package of bills Thursday evening after hours of closed-door talks, voting 55-53 on the central bill in the package offering the $617 million. The package also includes a $150 million loan to help the new district transition.

The plan gives the final say on firing superintendents to the Financial Review Commission, which will also be able to approve the district's operating budget.

Democrats who voted against the legislation said the package does nothing to address central problems at the school district.

Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter says the plan will keep the schools open, pay off debt and make sure teachers are paid.

The package now goes back to the Senate for consideration.

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8:35 p.m.

The Michigan House may be poised to vote on compromise legislation to grant Detroit Public Schools a $617 million bailout.

The chamber released official versions of the legislation Thursday, and lawmakers emerged from hours of private negotiations.

The plan includes a $150 million loan to help create to a new district. It also grants authority to a Financial Review Commission to approve the school system's operating budget. That commission would also have the final say on firing superintendents.

The legislation also includes fines for teachers or administrators engaging in strikes, which are illegal for public employees in Michigan. Teachers would have to pay fines equal to a day of their pay for each day they protested.

That comes after Detroit teachers called in sick earlier this year to protest poor school conditions and the possibility of not being paid if the district ran out of money.

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5:40 p.m.

Michigan lawmakers have been meeting for hours on a $617 million bailout and restructuring plan for the Detroit school district. It wasn't clear when there would be a House vote.

The House has approved more than two dozen other unrelated bills as GOP leadership says they're getting closer to having enough lawmakers on board to pass legislation for the school district. The House plan may include $467 million to pay Detroit Public Schools debt and $150 million to help a new district in the city transition.

But no official dollar amounts have yet been confirmed by House leadership. The $617 million figure comes from a summary proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The Senate and House have both previously passed different legislation to restructure and pay off debt at the Detroit Public Schools.

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11:20 a.m.

A Republican legislative leader is questioning whether a proposed bailout and restructuring of Detroit's school district would provide enough money to ensure the state doesn't have to commit more funds later.

The House may vote Thursday on a $617 million package, including $467 million to retire the Detroit Public Schools' operating debt over time and $150 million to transition to a new district this summer. But Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof told The Associated Press the $150 million is "probably the low end."

He says before the Senate votes "for that kind of money," he wants to be sure "we don't have to come back and do it again."

Talks continue. The House is in session, while senators are attending a policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The Senate previously backed $200 million in spending to launch a new district, the House $33 million.

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2:30 a.m.

The Michigan House may vote on a $617 million bailout and restructuring of Detroit's school district under a proposed compromise circulated to majority Republicans.

The bills, which were being drafted late Wednesday, would retire the state-managed Detroit Public Schools' enormous $467 million operating debt and provide $150 million to transition to a new district, according to a summary proposal obtained by The Associated Press. The legislation is on Thursday's agenda, but GOP legislative leaders and the Snyder administration say no final agreement has been reached.

The House and Senate have passed different restructuring plans and are trying to resolve differences. Emergency aid for the district will run out by June 30.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says all sides are closer to an agreement, but "there are still a lot of moving pieces."