Detroit school board scores temporary victory in struggle with state over control
Feb 20, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The Detroit school board won authority today over academic decisions, the school police, and library commission appointments in a ruling handed down in Wayne County Circuit Court.
The elected members of the Detroit Public Schools Board of Education have had no power for nearly four years, but for the next five weeks the officials will be able to have a say in how the state's largest school district is run.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Annette Berry granted the board's request for an injunction in part, and denied it in part. Her ruling means Roy Roberts, the state-appointed emergency financial manager, can no longer usurp the board's powers that are outlined in Public Act 72 of 1990.
The board considered the ruling a victory.
Board President LaMar Lemmons said the next move would be for the board and Roberts to meet to talk specifics about power sharing.
Though his authority is limited by the court order, Roberts said he "couldn't be happier."
"We needed clarity," about roles, he said.
While the board won many of its arguments today, a new state law will strip the board of its authority on March 27.
Today's order marks the third time the court has affirmed the board's authority since 2010.
Roberts filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court in an attempt to stop the school board from making any decisions from August to November, when voters were scheduled to decide on whether to keep or kill Public Act 4 of 2011, the law that allowed a state-appointed emergency manager to make nearly all decisions for a school district or city in financial distress.
Roberts, who has had control over the DPS budget since May 2011, said he feared the board would cause irreparable harm to the district's students and finances by undoing some of his decisions.
Judge John Murphy ruled that the school board would have control over academic operations until the vote on Public Act 4. Voters repealed the law in November and the board has continued to have academic control by law.
The board has made several decisions since then, but asked the court for an injunction because Roberts had directed all staff to ignore the board's decisions and authority.
What -- if anything -- the board will do with its authority is unclear. The state legislature created a new emergency manager law in December that will take effect March 27. At that time, the school board will continue to exist, but it will have no authority over the budget or academic operations, but could after 18 months vote to get rid of the emergency manager.
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