After Michigan voters repealed a law that allowed the state to appoint emergency managers to financially struggling municipalities and school districts, officials involved with Detroit Public Schools are again clashing over where authority lies.
The Detroit Board of Education, reinstated to oversee DPS academics after Public Act 4's suspension, voted in a special meeting Tuesday to break ties between the district and the Educational Achievement Authority. Ending the agreement with the EAA, a state-run district for underperforming schools, would bring students and funding back to DPS. They also moved to cancel its contract with Eastern Michigan University, the Detroit News reports. The deal with formed under DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, whose powers are limited after Public Act 4 was struck down.
Opponents of the EAA have criticized it for making use of Detroit Public Schools facilities while draining DPS of funding and sidestepping its debt.
“We have too many superintendents and deputy of this and deputy of that, and all of that money could be going to the classroom or pay down the debt,” school board President LaMar Lemmons said in remarks reported by CBS Detroit.
The decision is dependent on the state's certification of last weeks' ballot results and court approval, according to WXYZ, and representatives of Governor Rick Snyder say that the board doesn't have the authority to pull out of the special district. His office told the Detroit News that neither EMU or the school board can back out of the deal without the consent of the EAA's executive committee.
The EAA features an individualized computer-driven curriculum aimed at improving student achievement. It was formed by a special partnership between the state, EMU and DPS. Although the state has pledged to expand the district, it launched this school year solely in Detroit with 15 schools formerly in DPS.
Tuesday's vote was the board's second attempt to derail the EAA. They also tried to halt it in early August after Public Act 4 was suspended due to the November ballot initiative, resulting in a legal battle.
Although Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Murphy stopped the board's efforts to keep control of those 15 schools on Aug. 8., school board attorney George Washington told the Detroit News that the judge had indicated he was willing to revisit the the matter if Public Act 4 was repealed.
The district's leadership has continued to be contested as well. Members of the school board have also requested that Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, appointed under PA 4, step down as a result of the law's repeal. Highland Park school board member Robert Davis also filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Court of Appeals Tuesday asking that he be removed.
Before the Nov. 6 vote, Roberts told Snyder he would consider stepping down; afterwards, he said he would stay in the position at least until ballots are certified.
Bu there is also a question of whether the school board should exist at all. Seven of its members are involved in a lawsuit filed by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who maintains that they are on the board illegally because they were elected in separate districts instead of by the district as a whole. He says this is because DPS doesn't have enough students to qualify as a First Class School District under Michigan's Revised School Code --and hasn't since September 2008.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Gillis Jr. decided Wednesday to put the lawsuit, which seeks to remove the board members, on hold until Jan. 10, the Free Press reports.