LANSING, Mich. — The state can close persistently low-performing public schools in Detroit before next June, Michigan’s attorney general said Wednesday in an opinion that conflicts with Gov. Rick Snyder’s belief that no doors can be locked until 2019 under a bailout approved by lawmakers.
Frustrated Republicans in the Legislature asked for Schuette’s opinion after Snyder’s interpretation.
“The law is clear: Michigan parents and their children do not have to be stuck indefinitely in a failing school. … If a child can’t spell opportunity, they won’t have opportunity,” Schuette, a Republican, said in a statement.
The opinion, which is binding unless reversed by a court, said any school operated by the Detroit district that was on the list of lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools since the 2013-14 academic year can be closed.
Ari Adler, a spokesman for the Republican governor, said Snyder’s staff “needs time to review (the opinion) once it is received.”
“The governor is following the law in this matter and as additional opinions interpreting the law are presented, they will be carefully reviewed,” Adler said in an email.
Michigan’s latest list of low-performing schools has 124 schools, including 116 that are still open. Of those, 47 are in the Detroit district and 11 are Detroit schools being run by the Education Achievement Authority — a turnaround entity that Snyder created.
“We … will need to closely and carefully review the opinion with counsel and determine our course of action,” district spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said.
In addition, Schuette’s opinion clarifies that school closures are required in accordance with state law unless closure would result in an unreasonable hardship because there are insufficient other public school options. In the event of a closure, students will be re-assigned to another school.
Shoniqua Kemp, whose daughter is a sophomore at Osborn Evergreen Academy of Design and Alternative Energy, said she feels “disheartened.” The school has been a low performer for three years, but she believes it deserves more time to rebound.
“As a parent, I feel like these fly-by-night decisions are being made, and our children’s futures are never considered,” Kemp told the Detroit Free Press.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter had said the law’s “plain language” authorized Detroit school closures by the end of this school year. In a statement Wednesday, Cotter welcomed the ruling.
“This opinion is also the right decision to put those students back on the path to success and address the crippling problem presented by the worst of the worst schools in the city,” Cotter said.