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Michigan Attorney General sues to block Detroit school board from resuming power

School districts with emergency managers have been plunged into uncertainty, now that the state’s emergency manager law has been suspended.

In Detroit, the Michigan Attorney General is suing to make sure the elected school board doesn’t take power back there.

Detroit’s elected school board went from having very little power, to no power whatsoever when the state broadened the powers of emergency managers under Public Act 4.

Now that the law has been suspended, the board is looking to reclaim at least some of that power.

But state Attorney General Bill Schuette is trying to forestall that.

He’s gone to Detroit’s Third Circuit court try and get seven members of the eleven-member board removed.

Schuette say the seven were illegally-elected by district, rather than at-large.

Detroit has traditionally done that, because it had enough students to qualify as Michigan’s only first-class school district.

But Schuette now maintains that stopped being the case in 2008, and the seven members were elected illegally in 2011.

Schuette also wants “an injunction on further board action.”

Governor Snyder supports Schuette’s action, saying the Detroit school board can’t be allowed to undo the district’s “significant strides” made under emergency manager Roy Roberts.

The school board met Thursday evening. They appointed a new superintendent, long-time Detroit educational activist Dr. John Telford.

The board also voted to rescind the order moving 15 Detroit schools from DPS to the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), the new, state-wide district for the lowest-performing schools. It’s supposed to launch with the Detroit schools in September.

Some Detroit officials and activists have maintained the EAA is a construct meant to drain students and resources from DPS, while leaving the Detroit district stuck with old legacy costs.

Needless to say, state officials disagree.

“The Educational Achievement Authority is a groundbreaking approach to help provide the kids in these targeted, challenged schools with the educational opportunities they need and deserve,” said Snyder, in a statement supporting Schuette’s lawsuit. “Our focus and priority must be on these kids as they prepare to start the school year in less than a month.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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