Dr. Don Witherspoon, the emergency manager for Muskegon Heights Public Schools, took over operations earlier this year for a district deep in debt.
However, a proposal struck down by Michigan voters just over a week ago is altering his job responsibilities.
He listened in as the school district’s attorney explained to community members what a post-proposal one district looks like.
Voters statewide defeated proposal one, meaning the “emergency manager law” passed by Governor Snyder is no longer in place. That law is known as Public Act 4 or PA 4. It replaced another emergency manager law known as Public Act 72 or PA 72.
Attorney Gary Britton says Snyder’s Public Act 4 was an upgrade.
“The major change had been that the emergency financial manager had been given additional powers in the Public Act 4, basically in the area of collecting bargaining,” Britton explained.
“…basically being able to change the section of a contract or basically being able to get rid of the contract,” he added. Now that PA 4 is void, Britton says the district is now operating under PA 72 again.
It’s a lot of numbers, but here’s what it means:
Emergency managers are now only responsible for the school district’s finances. They’re not responsible for everything else including the actual education.
However, in Muskegon Heights, Britton says there won’t be any changes because the district already gave up the authority of academics by hiring a charter school to manage that piece of the puzzle.
“And that charter school is now taking care of that educational component under contract to the board,” Britton explained. Since there’s a charter school system in place, collective bargaining isn’t an issue for the district.
So what can parents expect to be different? “Absolutely, it should be just business as usual,” Britton said.