Detroit Board of Education meets for first time Aug. 9 after suspension of PA4.

  • State statute MCL 8.4 does not allow PA 72 EFM reinstatement, says community
  • Hearing on EM Roy Roberts’ suit to maintain control over DPS Aug. 14, 10 a.m. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Murphy, CAYMC

 By Diane Bukowski 

August 12, 2012 

DETROIT – Detroit’s Board of Education declared Aug. 9 that they are taking back their power as elected officials over the Detroit Public School (DPS) district. The day before, the state Board of Canvassers placed Public Act 4, the “emergency manager law,” on the ballot, suspending the it until the State’s November  elections.

Board President Lamar Lemmons II and member Wanda Akilah Redmond.

The Board’s first action was a vote to restore 15 schools to the district by terminating the DPS “Educational Achievement Authority” (EAA) contract with Eastern Michigan University. They also terminated a contract with “Teach for America,” which provides idealistic but barely-trained individuals to teach classes in the EAA.

“We are terminating the inter-local agreement with EMU and demanding the return of our schools,” declared Board President Lamar Lemmons II. “According to a lawsuit filed by AFSCME, EM Roy Roberts had no authority to take those schools.”

The “Educational Apartheid Authority,” as board member Elena Herrada termed it, is allegedly a state-wide district but includes only Detroit schools. It targets the “lowest-performing” five percent of schools in the state.  In addition to removing the schools from DPS control, it also removes them from the supervision of the State Board of Education. (Click on http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/29/teach-in-against-the-phony-educational-achievement-authority/ for a listing of the schools involved.)

Critics say that instead of improving students’ performance, it will subject them to isolation in computer-run classes provided by lucrative corporate contracts, untrained teachers, the elimination of services for special needs students, who are to be folded into regular classes, and possible further charterization.

Keith January, presiden of AFSCME Local 345 which represents special education aides, denounces EAA and charter schools.

Keith January, president of AFSCME Local 345, which represents 500 special education aides, gave an impassioned presentation against the EAA during the board meeting.

“We have been informed that Wayne RESA is cutting funding for the DPS,” he said. “Forty-nine special ed classes are being disbanded and lay-off notices are going out. There are 195 children in the EAA along with 600 students with special needs. How do you you put students with special needs in failing schools? They just want the federal special ed money. Make sure our education process is not corrupted by corporate Gordon Gekko types. There are also 60,000 students in Detroit in charter schools, most of them for-profit.”

He said the board must begin the process to get not only the EAA students, but the students in charter schools back to fully-functioning Detroit public schools immediately.

Youths in Highland Park gather outside HP School Board meeting April 29, 2004 as most of their teachers were being laid off.

“We have anarchy in the streets right now, video games are being played out in reality. This is nothing but the result of the hopelessness these young people feel. It is not going to get better until we build a road for them to come back.”

The board’s vote to disband the EAA was a direct challenge to Gov. Rick Snyder and DPS EM Roy Roberts, who also chairs the EAA board. The EAA board declared the same day that it will maintain control, voted on EAA contracts, and has continued recruiting students.

Edith Lee Payne shows state statute which prevents repealed laws from automatically being restored.

During the meeting, Edith Lee Payne, a litigant in a class action lawsuit against Public Act 4, and former Detroit school board member Marie Thornton challenged Gov. Rick Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon’s assertions that PA 4 is currently replaced by PA 72. That act allowed appointed managers control only over the finances of municipalities and school districts and did not allow abrogation of union contracts.

Payne pointed out that state documents show PA 72 was repealed March 16, 2011, the day that PA 4 was declared effective. She noted that MCL 8.4 says clearly,

“Whenever a statute, or any part thereof shall be repealed by a subsequent statute, such statute, or any part thereof, so repealed, shall not be revived by the repeal of such subsequent repealing statute.” 

Thornton, who was present during oral arguments before the State Supreme Court on putting PA 4 on the ballot, said Chief Justice Robert Young specifically noted at the close of the hearing that PA 72 could not replace PA 4. 

DPS EM Roy Roberts

However, Roberts filed suit to maintain his powers over both financial and academic aspects of DPS immediately after PA 4 was placed on the ballot.

“He’s trying to be declared king for life,” George Washington, who has been retained as the Board’s attorney, said sarcastically.  A hearing on Roberts’ suit is set for Tues. Aug. 14 at 10 a.m. before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge John Murphy in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

Board member Tawanna Simpson listens as board attorney George Washington addresses meeting..

“An entire generation of students has been damaged forever by the state’s Tuskegee-like experiment with Detroit schools,” Washington said. “Lansing’s attack has gone on for the last 13 years and must be stopped.”

He said the board plans to ask Judge Murphy to formally re-imstall them to prevent further confusion and damage.

DPS enrollment has dropped from 140,000 since the first state takeover in 1999, when district students were achieving high scores. The district had a surplus of $99 million in 1999, but has had repeated deficits during the two state takeovers, largely due to excessive borrowing by the state-appointed officials.

Over 80 percent of the district’s school aid is held apart by a state trustee to pay the district’s debt to the banks.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette

The board held a closed session with Washington on the Roberts lawsuit, as well one filed by State Attorney General Bill Schuette, challenging the seats of seven school board members. He claims claiming DPS is not entitled to “first-class” school district status because its enrollment has dropped below 60,000.

“The whole community will wrap its arms around you for de-certifying the EAA,” DPS teacher Steve Conn told the board.

Catherine Ferguson students at rally celebrating declaration their school would remain open.

Nicole Conaway teaches at the Catherine Ferguson Academy, where students sustained arrests last year for a sit-in to keep their school open. The sit-in received national coverage. The school, which welcomed young mothers with their babies as well as pregnant teens, remained open although DPS transformed it into a charter school.

“Act NOW,” Conaway told the board. “Re-open all closed schools, and order Roy Roberts and his staff to vacate their offices.”

Newly re-elected U.S. Reprentative John Conyers, with staff members Marion Brown and Isaac Robinson attended the meeting.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers addresses board.

“The work you are doing today is so important,” Conyers told the board. “People are very concerned about how our children are trained, culturized and education in the 21st century. More and more the House committee on Education is trying to concern itself with keeping our children in the public school system.”

Conyers said he planned to speak with President Barack Obama the next day about federal action against Public Act 4. A letter he sent to Attorney General Eric Holder Dec. 2 asking for an investigation of violations of the National Voting Rights Act under PA 4 has gone unanswered.

The Board additionally voted, with two abstentions, to install Dr. John Telford as interim superintendent pending the election in November. Board member Tawanna Simpson told VOD after the meeting that the Board’s intended to appoint Telford only temporarily and establish a search committee later.

He gave a lengthy generalized descriptions of his plans.

Edith Lee Payne and Valerie Glenn confront DFT president Keith Johnson.

While he gave a special welcome to Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) president Keith Johnson, Free Detroit No Consent members Valerie Glenn and Edith Lee Payne confronted Johnson during a break, asking why he has not taken a more militant stance since Roberts’ abrogation of the DFT contract.

Johnson said he has no plans for the DFT to take a strike vote, and is depending instead on the union-sponsored ballot proposal to amend the Michigan constitution to make collective bargaining a right for all workers.

Maybury Elementary parent with child tells board they must have specific plans.

A mother holding her child who is Vice-President of the LSCO for Maybury Elementary school called on Telford to propose specific plans for the future instead of generalized statements.

“Because we organized to save Maybury, it was the only school that survived the last round of closures,” she said. “We want to make sure that we are not dragging our kids through the mud again this time.”  Click on http://save-maybury.org/2012/03/26/dps_22marzo/.

Block Club President Wayne Bernard told the board, “Stay away from Luther Keith and that ARISE Detroit crap. They are doing nothing but thriving off our money. Get rid of the Detroit Parent Network (DPN) and evict them from their DPS building.”

The DPN, which has ties to the Skillman Foundation and other privatizers, was formed in an effort to replace the elected LSCO’s.

DPS Board member Elena Herrada speaks at EAA teach-in Aug. 2, 2012.

At the conclusion of the meeting, board member Elena Herrada said the struggle to restore DPS to properly educate the city’s children will depend not on court or electoral action, but on the will of the people to take direct action.

For more on the Educational Achievement Authority, click on http://critical-moment.org/2012/06/25/the-educational-achievement-authority-detroits-top-secret-school-district/. VOD covered the teach-in against the EAA Aug. 2 and will also be reporting on that. For more information contact Herrada at 313-303-3809.


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