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Mich. Senate OKs allowing schools to be dissolved

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Michigan State Capitol Michigan State Capitol
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -

The state's school superintendent and treasurer could dissolve a deficit-ridden district and send the students to nearby schools under legislation narrowly approved Wednesday by a divided Michigan Senate.
 
The bills, which passed on a 20-18 vote, are specifically designed to address two struggling districts in the Detroit and Saginaw areas. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and legislators are moving quickly before because the Inkster and Buena Vista districts face the prospect of not having enough money to reopen for classes in September.
 
Senators took steps to further limit the districts that could disappear, specifying that only districts with 300 to 2,400 students could be impacted if other certain criteria are met.
 
Majority Republicans rejected Democrats' attempt to change the bills to ensure displaced teachers get the first crack at jobs in adjacent districts where their students are sent and to require pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department because the Buena Vista community is covered by the federal Voting Rights Act.
 
"This is a pretty complicated issue and we're rushing it through in the last two weeks of session," said Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor.
 
He laid the blame on Snyder and GOP lawmakers for "disinvesting" in school funding and said they are attempting to "eliminate the crisis" with a short-term solution.
 
Republicans responded that they are trying to do what is best for students and argued that the districts involved are among the best-funded in the state, so their problems are not about funding.
 
"While I understand the sensitivity of what's at stake here, the emphasis needs to be placed on the kids that are there to get their education," said Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. "Any kind of delay is only an injustice to the students and gets in way of the education they so readily need."
 
Twenty Republicans voted for the legislation, and 12 Democrats and six Republicans voted against it. Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, spoke against one bill for 1 hour and 5 minutes -- a rare filibuster in the chamber.
 
The GOP-led House, which approved the bills last week, plans to send them to Snyder on Thursday after concurring with Senate changes. The Legislature adjourns for the summer on Thursday.
 
Buena Vista School District near Saginaw was forced to shut its doors for nearly two weeks in May after running out of money to pay teachers. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has complained that the state was criticized for the district staying closed so long when its hands were tied by the law.
 
The superintendent and treasurer could decide to dissolve a district if it does not submit a deficit-elimination plan or submits one but lacks the ability to implement it. Other pre-requisites include a finding that the district is not financially viable, has 300 to 2,400 students and loses at least 10 percent of its enrollment from the previous school year.
 
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Online:
 
House Bill 4813: http://1.usa.gov/12KkBNH
HB 4815: http://1.usa.gov/152bZML
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Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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