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Michigan Attorney General Says Low Achieving Detroit Schools Can Close This School Year

Sep 29, 2016

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Poor performing Detroit schools could be closing soon.  Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion clarifying a section of the school code Wednesday.


The opinion says that schools in the Detroit Public School Community District that have been in the bottom five percent for the last three school years can be closed.  That means if a school hasn’t performed sufficiently during the 2015-2016, 2014-2015, and 2013-2014 school years, it is subject to closure.  

State Representative Daniela Garcia (R–Holland) was a sponsor of the bill that laid out oversight for Detroit schools.  She said she is glad the legislative intent of the bill was upheld.  

Garcia said, “This is something that we spent a lot of time on as a body talking about and the importance of giving students in the city of Detroit a fighting chance and getting them out of chronically failing schools.”

But critics of the decision say it doesn’t help Detroit’s students. State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) says the move is politically motivated.  “It’s a new district,” she said.  “And if you sold it to the people that way, that’s what it is.  It’s a new district, with a fresh start, and an opportunity for the children to get the support that they need.”

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) and Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) asked Schuette to clarify the section of the Revised School Code stemming from a Detroit oversight bill.  The Republican leaders said clarification was needed because Governor Rick Snyder didn’t plan to close the schools for another three years.  Snyder’s stance came from an opinion from the Miller Canfield law firm saying that because Detroit schools changed administration, the three straight years mark was reset. 

Speaking on behalf of the Attorney General’s office, Andrea Bitely said, “Michigan parents and their children don’t have to be stuck indefinitely in a failing school and this opinion really solidifies that.”

Schools will not be closed if it would cause unreasonable hardship because there are insufficient other public school options reasonably available. 

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org