Detroit Public Schools announce lawsuit against state

© Rebecca Cook
The board of education for Detroit Public Schools has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Michigan over the emergency manager law that has kept non-elected emergency managers in a position to run the district since 2009.

The pending class action lawsuit, announced on Thursday, names over 20 defendants – including Governor Rick Synder. It also names a dozen former and current principals, as well as a vendor who was indicted on kickback and bribery charges in a scheme that is estimated to have made $1 million, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The district’s elected board of education was stripped of its authority in 1999. The schools were then put under the charge of a “reform board” whose members were appointed by Detroit’s mayor and Michigan’s governor, ThinkProgress reported. When the school board was replaced by the state, the district had a surplus of nearly $100 million. Since then, the district has struggled to stay afloat financially and now has some of the worst test scores in the state.

Despite the huge surplus inherited by the emergency managers, the state legislature recently had to earmark $48.7 million to keep the district from running out of money this school year.

State representative and former Detroit Public Schools teacher Sherry Gay-Dagnogo explained the lawsuit against the state, telling RT, “The emergency managers have directly helped to dismantle Detroit Public Schools.

She went on to say that the emergency managers who oversaw the district dropped the ball.

Under their watch, we have seen, consistently, profiteers and contractors benefit off the backs of our children.

For evidence, look no further than the aforementioned vendor who is working on a plea deal for bribery charges. Norman Shy, 74, was a vendor of school supplies found to have conspired with a total of 12 DPS principals and one administrator, WWJ TV reported.

The US Attorney’s office claims that phony invoices were submitted for supplies that were either not delivered or delivered in smaller quantities than billed. The principals and administrators received kickbacks of more than $900,000, while Shy’s company received $2.7 million from the district.

For DPS, the problem goes significantly deeper than Shy. Two months ago, Detroit teachers held a “sick-out” to protest the conditions in public schools.

Gay-Dagnogo explained the causes for the protest, saying “there are environmental concerns. There’s black mold in a number of schools. There are leaking ceilings, there’s no hot water. There are a number of challenges throughout infrastructure in these buildings and all of this has taken place under state control.