The Detroit Board of Education will regain its control over academics in the Detroit Public Schools (DPS), following a ruling by Wayne County Circuit Judge John Murphy on Tuesday, August 14. The Associated Press reported that DPS Emergency Manager Roy Roberts will retain control over financial matters involving the school district. In addition, the state will retain control of several schools in the system that Roberts had transferred over to a new state-sponsored district for low-performing schools.
The Detroit Board of Education had challenged Roberts' appointment, as well as the state's control over select schools from the district. The board's challenge centered around the fact that the state's emergency manager law, Public Act 4, has been suspended pending the success or failure of a proposed repeal that will be on the November ballot.
Here is some of the key information to emerge from Judge Murphy's ruling and its immediate aftermath.
- Judge Murphy's ruling was based on his interpretation of the state's previous emergency manager law, Public Act 72, which only allows an EM to exercise financial control over a school district.
- The Detroit Board of Education had lobbied to regain academic control of the 15 schools that Roberts has transferred to the state's new Education Achievement Authority (EAA), claiming that the schools should be under its jurisdiction.
- According to a report by the Detroit News, Judge Murphy further ruled that going forward, Roberts must be able to justify each decision he makes as being strictly financial, because under Public Act 72 he is not allowed any say over academics whatsoever.
- Murphy said in his ruling that "the devil is in the details," and that the Detroit Board of Education and Roberts must come to an agreement on each decision separately going forward as to whether or not the issue in question falls under the umbrella of finances or academics. Otherwise, according to the Detroit News, Murphy said that he will bring the board and Roberts back to court to decide each dispute.
- Murphy also ruled that all of Roberts' decisions made prior to August 8 will temporarily stand, which is why the 15 schools transferred to the EAA will stay there. However, Murphy also said that if Public Act 4 is repealed in November, he may revisit that part of his decision.
- Although his attorneys filed an injunction last week in an attempt to prevent the board from making any decisions regarding the DPS at all, on Tuesday Roberts hailed Murphy's ruling as a "wise decision," according to the Detroit Free Press.
- The Detroit Free Press also reported that Roberts is expected to meet with the board soon, after telling the media on Tuesday that he has "high hopes that we can jointly sit down and figure out how we can work together for the wellbeing of young people" in the district.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan with a lifelong interest in politics and public issues.