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Detroit, Eastpointe, Saginaw and Kalamazoo schools work to settle suit against state

The Washington Writer's Academy in Kalamazoo
Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Kalamazoo schools filed a lawsuit against the School Reform Office after the office threatened to close Washington Writer's Academy and one other in the district.

Lawyers say they’ve agreed to a broad framework to settle lawsuits against the state’s School Reform Office. The office caused controversy when it mailed letters to thousands of parents earlier this year, saying their child’s school was at risk of closing because of “academic failure for many years.”

Today a state appellate judge in Detroit announced “after intense settlement conversations” the attorneys had reached a tentative deal. Nothing is on paper yet, and attorneys declined to comment.

The judge said the settlement talks were “seeking to serve the children” of the state of Michigan.

One of the main sticking points was Governor Rick Snyder’s 2015 executive order to move the School Reform Office from the Michigan Department of Education to the state’s budget office. Some saw the move as a power grab by Snyder.

But Snyder has maintained he simply wanted to jumpstart the SRO into action. Last week Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Snyder’s pleased with the results and that’s why he decided last month to issue another executive order, this time to move the SRO back under the education department.

Adler said the latest executive order was not related to the lawsuit, but because he felt it was the best way to make sure the new partnership agreements with chronically low-performing schools are executed.

But the judge said the proposed settlement depends on the new executive order going into effect. Assuming there’s no legislative action to stop it, the order will take effect in late August.

Lawyers will hash out the details and present them to their respective school boards and/or superintendents in the coming weeks. The Michigan Attorney General’s Office will also have to sign off on any deal.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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