Last night the Michigan Senate hastily passed those House bills (HB 4813 and 4815) giving the authority to dissolve small school districts to the state under certain criteria: the district must have between 300 and 2,400 students, be in a fiscal crisis that the state deems they are unable to address, and have experienced a 10 percent enrollment drop in the previous school year. The bills go to Gov. Snyder’s desk today to be enacted immediately.
Their big rush is so the Superintendent of Education, Mike Flanagan, can act promptly to dissolve both Buena Vista and Inkster school districts for the upcoming school year. The Associated Press reports that Senate Republicans rejected amendments that would have given teachers from the dissolved district first crack at jobs in the receiving district, and a provision that the U.S. Justice Department must first approve the Buena Vista closure because the community is covered by the Voting Rights Act.
These kinds of reactionary, myopic laws are bound to generate enormously costly legal battles for the state — likely exceeding the deficit of the shuttered district. Additionally, Michigan will find that these school closures will dominate in communities of color, giving HB 4813 and 4815 a racial component that will spark suits based on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, just as the Emrgency Manager law has.
Democracy Tree has written several times about the folly of forced mergers.
Amy Kerr Hardin