October 17, 2014
DPS sands are shifting like quicksand
For one recent hopeful, glorious moment, it appeared that Detroit Public Schools’ long and unjust nightmare of state control and mismanagement would finally be over. In a special Board meeting at Renaissance High School on Monday, September 29, 2014, the seven Board members who were present and one member who called in voted unanimously to remove the emergency manager, and they invited me to the table to sit with them as Superintendent again. After one tumultuous year as Superintendent, I had been fired by the then-emergency manager on March 29, 2013, the day after the unconstitutional Public Act 436 became law and enabled him to remove me and disempower this good, duly-elected board. In attendance at that September 29 meeting were Board members LaMar Lemmons, Herman Davis, Ida Short, Juvette Hawkins, Elena Herrada, Rev. David Murray, and Tawana Simpkins. Voting affirmatively with them by telephone was Wanda Redmond. Members Annie Carter, Judy Summers, and EM appointee Jonathan Kinloch did not attend.
However, two days later, a corporate-collusive ruling by Ingham County District Judge Joyce Draganchuk illegally dismissed the Detroit Public School Board’s motion seeking the removal of DPS emergency management. Emergency managers appointed by Governor Rick Snyder have been in place since May, 2011, following 26 months of unwarranted gubernatorially imposed emergency financial management, and following nearly twelve years of state control of the Detroit Public Schools. The current EM came in July, 2013. In the Ingham County Courthouse on October 1, the DPS Board vainly pointed out to Judge Draganchuk that the language in Public Act 436—the replacement law for the EM law that the citizens of Michigan had voted to have rescinded—clearly specifies that after eighteen months an elected local unit can opt by a 2/3 vote to dismiss emergency management and return the district to the rule of the elected board and its appointed Superintendent. The current DPS EM’s eighteen months were up on September 29.
This has been far from the first time that a judge has turned a blind eye to the law in motions by the DPS Board— but being so late in the game now, it may prove to be the most destructive time. The rule of law is obviously dead in Michigan. The deck has been stacked against Detroit’s public schoolchildren ever since Gov. John Engler unfairly took over DPS in 1999 when the schools enjoyed a $100 million surplus under well-regarded Superintendent Eddie Green and DPS students’ test scores were at the state midpoint and rising. At that time, Detroit voters had approved a $1.5 billion bond to renovate old buildings and construct new ones, and people close to the governor were hungrily eyeing the lucrative contracts to be let. Ten years later, EM Robert Bobb departed and left behind a $327 million deficit and a school district with test scores which had plummeted so far under state control that they had become the worst in America.