No to Bobb/Durhal bills, demand debt moratorium
Breaking news: request from DPS activists to attend Dec. 1 Lansing house committe meeting,
The House Education Committee is scheduled to convene on Wednesday, December 1 at 9 am. The notice says the purpose is for whatever business may be brought before it, does not specify any bill, which is the normal routine.
Our concern is that the Bobb/Flanagan takeover bills HB 6576-6579 will be introduced before the committee to be forwarded to the full House for a vote.
Rep. David Nathan is the only Detroit legislator on the House Education Committee. Based on a call from a trustworthy person that Nathan was supporting the bills, Russ talked to him this morning, He said that he does not support the bills in their current form but he will be meeting with Bobb later this morning to see if changes can be made to the bill.
While this bill offers DPS up to $219 million for debt elimination using tobacco money, it still leaves the $108 million in Bobb’s debt from the last fiscal year. That amount grows daily in this fiscal year. DPS will still be kept in debt bondage to the State of Michigan (which created most of the debt) for years under this bill, with new powers to the state to control our district. This bill does not appear to be a compromise tradeoff to relieve our debt, but using debt as a means to permanently takeover DPS, while giving Bobb and Flanagan more pots of money to spend.
We must be there to let Lansing know that we are alert to this latest attempt to undermine accountability to the voters, impose state control and that we are determined to fight it. Please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org if you can go. Based on the responses, a transportation plan will be developed. Please indicate if you need transportation. Also indicate if you want your name added to a list supporting the call to lobby against this takeover legislation.
FYI, a critique of the bill sent out earlier, with a short addition, is attached at Bobb-HB6576 arguments. Please send out as widely as possible.
Helen Moore, Chris White, Debra Taylor, Ernest Johnson, Aurora Harris, Sandra Hines, Russ Bellant
By Diane Bukowski
DETROIT – A proposal by Detroit Public Schools (DPS) Czar Robert Bobb, embodied in four “Renaissance School District” bills sponsored by State Rep. Fred Durhal (D-Detroit), hardly constitutes “debt forgiveness” for DPS and 41 other Michigan districts with budget deficits, as these officials allege. (See list of districts at end of article.*)
The plan would actually funnel $400 million from the state’s tobacco settlement funds, meant to provide for health care and other human needs, into the coffers of multinational banks to partially pay down the districts’ huge debts. Of that, $219 million would go to DPS.
The Bank of New York Mellon and the Michigan Finance Authority already mandate that DPS set aside 87 percent of its state per-pupil aid, over $512 million, to pay off its ever-ballooning debt during this school year alone. (See chart at end of story, derived from DPS statistics.**)
Since the tobacco funds would not completely pay off DPS debt, Detroit and other districts that opt for the plan would continue in “Renaissance School” status indefinitely.
The same banks are already bloated by multi-billion dollar bail-outs from federal tax dollars.
Who will pay the price for this new windfall to the banks? According to Durhal’s bills, “Renaissance” districts would have to agree to draconian concessions, including loss of local control, unilateral revisions of union contract provisions, and ramping up of massive privatization and regionalization schemes.
“I just feel like Bobb and Durhal are looking at possibly another 1967 uprising,” said Wayne County Community College student Antonio Williams during a picket outside Durhal’s Detroit office Nov. 22. “The people of Detroit and the state are certainly not going to continue to take these cuts, and we are certainly going to win.”
Williams was a student at Northern High School in 2007 when he was tortured by DPS and Detroit police during a protest against massive school closings outside his school. As they held him down on the hood of a police car, they aimed pepper spray directly into his face, and later would not let him wash it off. Numerous others at the protest were similarly brutalized.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers called the Nov. 22 picket after a membership meeting vote, teacher Heather Miller said.
“They clearly want to divide our schools into sections that are wealthy and white, which get to have quality education, and sections that are poor and predominantly Black, which will not have qualified teachers, class size guarantees, and work rules for the teachers which actually are protection for our children.”
Bridgette Williams said she was fired from DPS after 30 years due to her activity in protesting the dismantling of the district.
“A lot of people are afraid of retaliation and won’t come out now,” Williams said. “DPS is nothing but a cash cow for these corporations to get rich off privatization, and off of moving the district into charter schools. Proposal S is a catalyst for charter schools. That $500 million bond is being used to renovate what they call ‘priority’ schools and if those schools don’t make AYP [Average Yearly Progress scores under the No Child Left Behind act”), they will become charters.”
Bobb put Proposal S on the ballot, and it was allegedly passed in November, 2009.
State Rep. Fred Durhal said that Bobb came to him with proposals for the bills he introduced Nov. 17, H. B. 6576 through 6579. He contended that the districts involved are in imminent danger of bankruptcy, and that his bills present a better alternative. He also urged their passage before Republican Governor-to-be Rick Snider takes office.
Asked however whether the best solution would instead be to declare a moratorium on the districts’ debt to the banks, he did not disagree.
Such a moratorium was declared by Detroit Mayor Frank Murphy during the Depression years of the 1930’s, in order to take care of the people’s needs, and was later brought to the U.S. Congress by a Detroit Representative.
“When the debate over direct Federal loans began in 1933 municipalities facing default were also having trouble refinancing their debts,” said Richard Flanagan, writing in Polity in 1999. “Influenced by Mayor Frank Murphy, Congressman Clarence McLeod, a Democrat from Detroit, proposed that cities with populations over 50,000 be allowed to petition the Federal courts to declare a debt moratorium for up to ten years.”
Unions and other organizations across Europe and Asia are currently engaging in massive national strikes and other militant uprisings targeting the multinational banks which are demanding austerity measures. These protests are causing Wall Street to shake in its boots, with daily stock averages wobbling up and down.
However, Durhal maintained that he is nonetheless moving forward with the bills, which have been referred to the House Education Committee.
The bills are an embodiment of Bobb’s “Plan A,” published in July as his “preferred” Deficit Elimination Plan (DEP).
In that DEP, Bobb used Plan B as a hammer to enforce implementation of Plan A. Plan B would involve the closure of more than 100 schools, leaving only 52 schools left in a district that has already lost over 100 neighborhood schools as a wave of charter schools has taken over. Included in the closures would be the districts’ five career and technical education centers.
Plan B also proposes class sizes as large as 62, elimination of general education student transportation, consolidation of most of the district’s functions with the city of Detroit, Wayne County and/or Wayne County RESA, and massive outsourcing or privatization.
But the terms of Plan A under Durhal’s bills appear to amount to a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Durhal’s lead bill, HB 6576, defines school districts with a general fund deficit as of June 30, 2009, as “Renaissance School Districts,” making it more broadly inclusive than districts that have been forced under receivership under Public Act 72.
It calls for State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan to publish a list of such districts by Dec. 15. The districts could then submit a “renaissance plan” for Flanagan’s approval. In cases where districts under under receivership, the Emergency Financial Manager, not the school board, would submit the plan. The language does not say districts will be REQUIRED to submit a Renaissance plan, leaving open to question whether Detroit and other districts under receivership are being targeted.
Once a district’s plan is approved, it would become eligible for a portion of the tobacco settlement funds, provided that the plan eliminates the district’s general fund deficit. The State Superintendent would control the district during the period of the plan.
The tobacco settlement funds would be administered by a state trustee, as currently happens with DPS state per-pupil aid. In Detroit, a state trustee gets the district’s entire per-pupil allotment, chops off the portion reserved for its debt, and then gives the rest to the district. No public notice would be required under terms of Durhal’s bill package when state per-pupil aid is given to bondholders, i.e. the banks.
The bill includes the following as some requisites of a renaissance plan:
- Goals or plans or reducing the school district’s costs for current employee benefits, noninstructional support services, and transportation, if applicable.
- Goals for reducing school building overcapacity, if any.
- A plan to grant individual schools a degree of autonomy . . .
- Compensation schedules for employee groups, including incentive compensation for teachers working in an underperforming district.
- A plan to partner with one or more education service providers to manage individual schools within the district.
- Appointments of district’s administrative team members, and management and audit firms, to be approved by the State Superintendent.
- IMPOSITION of an addendum to union contracts that would eliminate seniority systems, elimination of work rules considered to interfere with the plan, data-driven evaluation of school personnel and determination of optimum class sizes, revised work schedules, new attendance policies, merit-based compensation.
Durhal claimed his bills are not an attack on unions, but that they would allow unions to come to the table in the LEGISLATURE, to discuss the proposals. Historically, unions have always negotiated changes to contract terms at the BARGAINING TABLE.
The Renaissance plan would remain in effect until audits for two consecutive years show that the district has positive fund balances, but if a negative balance shows up in a subsequent year, the State Superitendent would again take over. .
Durhal said he did not expect his bills to pass the Legislature during this session, which is nearly at a close, but that they could be re-introduced for further discussion and amendment during the 2011 session.
“It appears that if we support this bill [HB 6576], that we are supporting a system of state control for years to come,” said a flier circulated by We the People of Detroit. “If the bill does not happen, we will still be faced with the EFM [Emergency Financial Manager] problem and a much larger debt. In the face of politics in Lansing, we may have problems getting a hearing next year, but have better grounds for fighting in public opinion if we have to agreed to our submission and complete loss of self-control under this bill.”
*Michigan schools with deficits as of June 30, 2009
|ALPENA||Bingham Acad.||LIVINGSTON||Brighton Area|
|BERRIEN||Benton HarborDREAM Acad.||Clintondale|
|E. UP. PEN.||Les Cheneaux||Mt. Clemens|
|COPPERCOUNTY||Hancock P.S.||MARQUETTE-ALGER RESA||Republic-Michigamme
|HURON ISD||Owendale-Gagetown||VAN BUREN||Covert|
|IOSCO RESA||Hale Area||WASHTENAW||Ypsilanti
|JACKSON ISD||Jackson Arts & Tech||WAYNE||Detroit
|LENAWEE ISD||Hudson Area|
List from State of Michigan Department of Education website
**DPS DEBT TO BANKS, PER FIGURES ON DPS WEBSITE
|Fiscal Year||Total DPS funds*||State perpupil aid (PPA)||Total debtset-asides||% DPS funds||% PPA|
*Total funds include property taxes, federal grants, state aid notes, WCRESA, food service, e-rate and Medicaid funds plus state PPA.