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Dems to Snyder: Block Closing of 38 Schools

TODD SPANGLER

DETROIT FREE PRESS

WASHINGTON - Michigan’s five Democratic members of the U.S. House asked Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday to block the Michigan School Reform Office from forcing as many as 38 schools across the state to close because of consistently poor academic performance.

As the Free Press reported last month, the state School Reform Office (SRO) released a list of schools — including two dozen in Detroit — that were ranked in the bottom 5% for academic performance for 2014, 2015 and 2016, meaning they could be closed under state law.

“We ask that the state not close any schools without consultation and input from the local community. Not only is thattype of collaboration required by federal law, it is also what local parents are demanding and what is best for our children,” said the letter to Snyder.

Signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, John Conyers of Detroit, Sander Levin of Royal Oak, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, who called the potential closings “a short-sighted measure that will have detrimental impacts on students.”

The SRO is expected to make a final determination this month or next month following a review into whether closing any of the schools would result in a particular hardship for students. In cases where a hardship is believed likely, the state can take steps ranging from appointing a new official to take it over, converting it into a charter school or replacing its principal and as much as half of its staff.

The Democratic members of Congress urged Snyder to take into account “the full consequences” involved in closing any school, including the distances students may be forced to travel to a new school as well as other impacts such a loss can create for a community. The voiced worries that the SRO was not considering many of those impacts.

“By closing schools without providingthe resources they need to improve performance, the SRO is setting Michigan schools up for failure. … The answer is not to close schools, but to invest in what works — smaller class sizes, better instructional material and support for professional staff,” they wrote.

Snyder’s office responded by saying the SRO is already consulting with “districts, students, the state Department of Education and others as they conduct a full review of each of these schools” but did not take closing any of them off the list of possible options for addressing their performance.

“Some of the schools on the list of 38 have been under-performing for a decade or more, so it’s imperative that some action is taken to save these kids from classrooms where they simply are not receiving an adequate education,” said Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for the governor, who also noted that secondary school funding has increased during Snyder’s tenure.

Gov. Rick Snyder was urged to take into account “the full consequences” of the closings.

RYAN GARZA/DETROIT FREE PRESS