LANSING (AP) — Republican lawmakers agreed yesterday to delay for one week a resolution to address the Detroit Public Schools’ financial troubles so the state can seek opinions from the Detroit community.
The agreement was the result of a meeting among legislative leaders, Detroit school officials and Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration.
“Any solution in Detroit must respect the Detroit community and its desire for self-governance,” Granholm said in a statement.
The state Senate had been planning to introduce a resolution today that could eventually lead to the appointment of a manager to oversee the school district’s finances.
But Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, (R-Wyoming), agreed to postpone action at Granholm’s request.
It is unclear what type of input, and in what form, the state will seek from the Detroit community.
State Superintendent Tom Watkins encouraged parents, teachers and school staff members to voice their opinions.
“Some difficult decisions will have to be made,” he said. “We need to hear from the community.”
The district recently reported a $48 million deficit for last school year and a $150 million deficit for the current school year. Its chief executive officer, Ken Burnley, says selling bonds — a move that would need legislative approval — would help the district deal with the shortfalls while it considers cutting up to 4,000 jobs and closing schools.
Lawmakers, however, are wary of the bonding proposal and worry that the district has yet to submit an annual audit, which was due Nov. 15.
Burnley agreed yesterday to turn in the audit by week’s end, Watkins said. If the audit isn’t submitted, the state will withhold the district’s monthly school aid payment.
The Senate had been considering a resolution under which the state superintendent would decide whether to ask Granholm to appoint a financial review team. Under one scenario, the Democratic governor would have to name a financial manager to oversee the district’s finances.
Sikkema spokesman Ari Adler said the goal isn’t to appoint a financial manager. Detroit voters’ recent decision to return to a traditional system with an elected school board, he said, shows they want more say over the district’s operations.
“They want to take their schools back,” Adler said. “Now is the time for them to get involved.”
Sen. Hansen Clarke, (D-Detroit), said the school district needs more time to figure out how to address the situation. But he doesn’t like the bonding proposal nor that an audit hasn’t been submitted.
“(School officials) have got to better manage their money,” Clarke said. “They’re not being truly and fully accountable to the taxpayers and parents.”
Keith Ledbetter, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Rick Johnson of LeRoy, said he’s waiting to see the Detroit Public Schools’ audit of its finances before deciding whether to implement reforms or go ahead with bonds.