Michigan House votes to pay Detroit school debt without Dems

Protesters stand outside Cadillac Place, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016 in Detroit, where a judge is hearing arguments in a case that could force teachers to stop skipping school. The teachers' so-called sick-outs have repeatedly forced the district to close schools during the past two weeks, keeping thousands of students at home, so in a bid to stop the absences, the district filed a lawsuit. Teachers are upset over pay, class sizes, building conditions and Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to overhaul the district. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — After 15 hours of mostly private meetings, the Michigan House approved a $500 million restructuring plan for the ailing Detroit Public Schools early Thursday.

House lawmakers started session Wednesday and emerged from a series of private caucus meetings to approve a plan to make sure teachers are paid and the district pays off debt.

But the plan doesn’t include a commission that would have the authority to approve which schools open and close in the city, a key part of the Senate plan which passed previously and a major reason why Democrats voted against the package.

Democrats argued the omission would not address root problems at the schools, which they said related to state control over the district, lack of money and the proliferation of area charter schools.

The House plan also didn’t include more than $200 million that was in the Senate plan, which Democrats said was crucial for the schools’ recovery.

Rep. Fred Durhal III, a Detroit Democrat called it a “temporary fix” and implied that the GOP-controlled House was aiding the continuation of a “second class education” for Detroit children.

But Republicans bristled at Democrats’ ire.

“I have never had a more difficult time in providing half a billion dollars,” Pscholka told fellow lawmakers.

Republican Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter argued that including the commission would have limited charter schools in the city. Cotter called it a “big step forward” for the Detroit schools.

He said including the commission Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Democrats had called for would have “choked out charter schools.”

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