Detroit school board needs to embrace state's $617M rescue plan

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By Mike Renda, General Manager

When the toothless Detroit Public school board recently turned up its nose at millions of dollars in loans called for in the Michigan legislature's school reorganization bill, it smacked of sour grapes to me.

In June - after a year of bitter debate - lawmakers approved a $617 million package that will split the Detroit Public Schools in two. The old one that will collect taxes and pay down the strangling debt, and a new district that will provide a clean slate and be totally focused on educating the kids. It provides for a local school board and strict oversight from a financial review board.

The legislature's solution came after long and intense debate and is a perfect example of how our democratic process is intended to work. Republicans were reluctant to pour more money into a district that has performed so poorly but Democrats stressed that a bold fix would provide a fresh start and avoid the looming disaster of a district bankruptcy.

In the end both sides compromised to forge a practical solution that made neither side very happy. But for the good of our schoolchildren, they voted for it.  Our lawmakers in Washington should take a lesson from this - years and years of deadlock and partisan politics have turned our national legislative process into nothing but a stalemate.

I would say this to the outgoing DPS school board - do the right thing, stop the obstructionist thinking and embrace the lending proposals in the legislation.

Let's support DPS emergency manager Stephen Rhodes as he begins his quest to build a new and healthy Detroit Public School system.