Panel rejects funding for East Detroit Schools CEO

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A legislative conference committee decided Tuesday against adding $250,000 into this year’s school aid budget for a CEO to oversee four low-performing East Detroit Public Schools.

Rep. Sarah Roberts, a member of the committee, said the money had not been included in either the House or Senate versions of the budget, but adding it was discussed last week.

The Macomb County district obtained a temporary restraining order Friday that prevents appointment of a CEO, pending a June 13 hearing in Macomb Circuit Court. In a deposition, Superintendent Ryan McLeod said the state had told the district it would have to pay the CEO’s salary and other costs.

While omitting the East Detroit funding, the panel added $5 million into next year’s budget for CEOs of districts that are taken over by the state School Reform Office, Roberts said. Districts would receive funding for three years if the School Reform Office appoints a CEO and the district has a high school and/or an intervention agreement with the reform office.

“We’ve seen over and over that these state takeover models don’t work,” said Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, the House minority vice chairwoman for the school aid panel. “What low-performing schools need is targeted dollars to address the problem of academic proficiency.”

McLeod said Tuesday he was glad the $250,000 for a CEO wasn’t funded. “Not putting the money in this year was a smart move by lawmakers because at this point we’ll have to see what happens in court,” he said.

But he expressed concern about the $5 million in next year’s budget, saying it hints the state may want to appoint a CEO in many places: “That makes it all the more important that the courts interpret this.”

In February, Gov. Rick Snyder said 30 schools had been taken off the state’s list of lowest performing schools. But four East Detroit schools were still struggling academically, and Snyder said a CEO would be name to oversee them.

The district sued; Judge Joseph Toia ruled there is a risk it could “suffer irreparable harm” if a CEO is appointed.

The conference panel’s budget will be rolled into the education omnibus bill to be voted on by the House and Senate.