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DPS overhaul scheme faces legal challenge

Jul 6, 2016

A recent legislative overhaul to Detroit Public Schools is being challenged in court.

Governor Snyder signed bills that split the old school district in two last month, avoiding a potential bankruptcy.

But members of Detroit’s elected school board say there are a number of problems with those bills.

Thomas Bleakley, the board’s attorney, says one problem is the laws are written so that they only apply to Detroit — and the state constitution is clear about the process for passing “local acts.”

“They had to obtain two-thirds majority of both houses, both the Senate and the House, and they to obtain the approval of the voters of the city of Detroit,” Bleakley said. “They did none of those things.”

Another legal question the board names is a provision that allows uncertified teachers to teach in Detroit — but nowhere else.

Bleakley says this violates the state and federal constitutions. “You cannot treat a class of citizens disparately and differently than another class, unless you have a rational basis for this,” he said.

“Detroit Public Schools will be the only public school district of 549 in the state, to be required or permitted to hire uncertified persons to teach the children.”

The board wants the Michigan Court of Claims to overturn the laws. It also asked for an injunction to stop them from taking effect while the case is litigated.

The board filed a federal, class-action lawsuit against Snyder and other officials in April, alleging years of state control caused “irreparable harm” to Detroit schools.

Support for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative on Michigan Radio comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism's Michigan Reporting Initiative, the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.