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DPS board loses emergency manager fight, for now

Detroit Public Schools

Detroit’s elected school board has lost its bid to oust the district’s emergency manager immediately.

Board members voted to get rid of Jack Martin this week.

And they sued to enforce that, citing a portion of state law that allows elected officials to remove emergency managers after 18 months.

Martin hasn’t yet been in office for 18 months, but the Detroit Public Schools have been under some form of emergency manager for years.

The question is whether that 18-month limit applies to all emergency managers, or just individual appointees.

An Ingham County judge dismissed the board’s lawsuit this week – allowing Martin to stay in power for now.

School board member Elena Herrada called that “demoralizing.”

“Everyone wants a right to elect their school board,” Herrada said, adding: “If the emergency manager had done a better job than the elected school board, I wouldn’t be in this fight.”

Board members say the court’s decision allows cities and school districts to remain under emergency managers indefinitely  – as long as a new person is appointed before 18 months is up.

They call the emergency manager law “racist” because it predominantly disenfranchises minority voters in Michigan, and argue that long-term emergency management has harmed districts like Detroit.

“We really need to have the citizens' vote count, so that the people here have some accountability as to what’s happening in the Detroit Public Schools,” said board Vice President Ida Short. “We don’t even really know how the money’s being spent here.”

Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Martin as the district’s third emergency manager in May 2013, meaning he could be dismissed by a two-thirds vote of the board in January if he’s still in office.

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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