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Adding to swirl of uncertainty, Detroit’s mayor says the state can’t close local schools

Erin Einhorn

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says state officials are wrong: They can’t close public schools in Detroit this year based on past test scores.

Chalkbeat reported earlier this month that the state School Reform Office plans to shutter schools that posted rock-bottom test scores on exams taken by students in 2014, 2015, and 2016. That could include several dozen district and charter schools in Detroit.

But asked about the possibility of closures, Duggan says he thinks the fact that Detroit Public Schools are now officially a new district called the Detroit Public Schools Community District means that the state can’t use old test scores to close schools in the new district.

That argument was laid out in a legal opinion from a lawyer with the Miller Canfield law firm who was working for the district. The lawyer wrote that state law that requires the School Reform Office to close Detroit schools with three consecutive years of low scores won’t apply until three years into the new district, which opened on July 1.

“The opinion from Miller Canfield is clearly correct,” Duggan told reporters today. “We have a new school district and the School Reform Office has jurisdiction in three years. All the School Reform Office would be basing judgment on now was what the old administration did but that will play out how it’s going to play out.”

A spokesman for the School Reform Office said the office is working with the state Attorney General “to review the statute and provide guidance.” As of now, he said, “no determinations have been made.”

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