The governor is expected to sign historic legislation that changes Detroit Public Schools.
DPS is now on track to get out of debt, receive more than $600 million, and avoid bankruptcy. Yet, Detroit lawmakers are far from happy about it.
Not one Detroit lawmaker or Democrat voted for the bills. They say they were locked out of negotiations and silenced.
The House Bills passed in the Senate late Wednesday, then immediately were sent to the House where they were voted on around midnight.
Right before the vote Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit) says paperwork was submitted requesting Detroit lawmakers get a chance to speak. When they didn’t get an opportunity, she stood up, and approached a microphone.
She raised her hand. She says when she was ignored, she said out loud, “A member has requested to speak.”
Other Democrats soon started chanting, “A member has requested to speak.”
House leadership continued on with the vote.
House leadership is Republican and according to members of the non-partisan Clerk’s Office no one broke any procedural rules. House leadership simply controls whether comment is allowed or not when a House Bill, passed by the Senate with small changes, is being voted on again.
House leadership decided that the first time around everyone got to speak, and there was no need to allow it this time.
When the vote was taken Democrats erupted in anger, yelling, “Shame! Shame! Shame!"
“To be denied the ability to speak to address the concerns in my community, I don’t care if you heard it. Hear it again,” said Rep. Love.
"What more could they have said? They are doing it for show,” said Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica).
Rep. Farrington says if he were a Detroit lawmaker he would be grateful.
“I think it is ridiculous they are upset. How hard is it to get more than $600 million?” said Farrington.
He says the deal returns the district to local control, pays off debt, and avoids bankruptcy. He says many people in the state would not have wanted to bail the district out of debt, but for the fact a bankruptcy would cost the state at least three times as much.
“For me, I think its really important we took care of the kids of Detroit,” said Rep. Farrington.
Detroit lawmakers say they dislike the bills because they also allow uncertified teachers in Detroit, punish teachers who strike, and don’t regulate charter schools enough. They wanted a commission to oversee the opening of district and charter schools. Charter schools lobbied against that.
“Who runs this state? Is it us as lawmakers? Or is it the special interests?,” said Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit).
That brings us to some of what Representative Love wanted to say, had she been allowed to speak.
She says she believes a Senate amendment in the final bill helps even the playing field between DPS and charters, but doesn’t do enough.
“Adding that amendment helps the school reform office address failing charters that exist now, but that is just one step,” said Rep. Love.