Wanted: Better ideas from DPS board
Depending on who you talk to, Detroit Public Schools’ emergency manager Jack Martin either has a few days left in his role, or several months. Whenever Martin departs, however, the DPS school board should reassure parents now it has the interests of the district’s 50,000 students in mind.
It’s not done a good job of that so far. The elected board members are obsessed with kicking out the emergency manager and unraveling many of the changes he and his two predecessors put in place.
That’s incredibly unhelpful, and it disregards the reality of how bad finances and academics remain at Michigan’s largest school district. But it’s a taste of the kind of leadership DPS will see once Martin leaves.
Board members have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s interpretation of the latest emergency manager law.
The DPS board argues the 18-month clock on the emergency manager started ticking as soon as Public Act 436 took effect in March 2013. The Treasury Department says the 18 months started fresh when Martin replaced Roy Roberts in July 2013.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1 in Ingham County Circuit Court.
To celebrate what board members see as impending freedom from state oversight, they are holding a press conference next Thursday in front of Detroit’s Fisher Building, where their offices are located.
Board President Herman Davis and District 2 board member Elena Herrada sent out a press release this week detailing the event.
“The people of Detroit, students, parents, teachers and all school personnel have endured 67 months of privatization and corruption under this repealed law,” it reads.
It goes on to repeat the same, tired talking points board members have used the past few years.
The school board has had little authority under emergency management, with the exception of a few months in late 2012 when the state’s previous emergency manager law was put on hold.
Here are a few of the board’s latest ideas:
■Ending the Educational Achievement Authority, the state’s recovery district for failing schools, which took over 15 schools in Detroit. The board members call the EAA a school system that “segregates racially, economically and academically our most vulnerable children and is accountable to no one but its investors, who use our new buildings and supplies and make money off of our children, who are failing in these schools.”
■A demand for a forensic audit and the “restoration of all funding for public education, the return of all buildings and materials seized by the racist EAA and self- governing schools.”
■And “the right to self determination and the same rights to govern as the white school districts in Michigan.”
In reality, when Martin leaves, the financial emergency won’t leave with him. Finances are in much better shape than they were, but the district still faces a $127 million deficit. So the board will have to work under a consent agreement with the state.
Such inflammatory, racially-charged language will appeal to some parents and activists, but it shouldn’t impress parents who simply want their children to get a good education in city schools. Many families have already given up on DPS, as witnessed by the majority of students in Detroit now attending private, charter or suburban schools.
If the DPS school board wants to win back some of these students, it will have to do better than slinging around slurs and meaningless demands.