Editor’s Note: Answers needed on DPS closures

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Some lawmakers are fighting back against a recent legal opinion that says legislation they passed this summer doesn’t allow any school closures within the new Detroit Public Schools Community District for three years. That’s the right call.

The interpretation from the Miller Canfield law firm goes against the accountability the Legislature sought in the law. Lawmakers specifically wanted to close the worst schools — and there are plenty in Detroit — and their bills laid out a roadmap to make that happen. There is also a need to right-size the district, as there are more seats than students to fill them.

Since the law technically created a new district, however, the legal opinion argues that resets any former tracking of school performance. And schools have to be on the state School Reform Office’s list of lowest-performing schools for three years before they are subject to potential closure.

Detroit charter schools with less than stellar track records are still on the chopping block. That will make charter opponents happy, but it’s not in the best interest of students in failing district schools to keep them open.

Gov. Rick Snyder has decided to accept this interpretation. But Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter aren’t ready to back down. On Friday, they requested a formal opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette regarding the state’s authority to close schools in Detroit.

The sooner Schuette issues his opinion, and clarifies this matter, the better.