Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
This is a follow-up to my earlier post, Concerns About SRRO School-Closure Plan. This post pertains specifically to the power of the State School Reform/Redesign Office (“SRRO”) to close “priority schools,” i.e., those that have been identified as among the lowest-performing 5% of public schools in the state under § 1280c(1). It does not address the SRRO’s separate statutory powers to close low-performing Detroit community district schools under § 391(1) or low-performing charter schools under § 507(5), which I previously discussed here.
MCL 380.1280c(1) requires the State School Reform/Redesign Office (“SRRO”) to publish a list of the lowest-performing 5% of public schools in the state by September 1st of each year. The schools identified under § 1280c(1) are then added to the SRRO’s list of “priority schools.”
Within 90 days of being placed on the list under § 1280c(1), the local school board or charter school board of directors (hereinafter “local board”) for each priority school must be given the opportunity to present a redesign plan to the SRRO. Within 30 days of receiving the redesign plan, the SRRO must approve it, recommend changes to it, or reject it. If the SRRO recommends changes to a redesign plan, the local board has 30 days to incorporate those changes and resubmit the plan to the SRRO for approval or rejection.
If the SRRO rejects a redesign plan, it “shall” (i.e, must) either place the school into the state reform district under § 1280c(6), or appoint a CEO to assume control over the school under § 1280c(7). The statutory term “shall” “indicates a mandatory and imperative directive.” Burton v Reed City Hospital Corp, 471 Mich 745, 752; 691 NW2d 424 (2005).
We know that the SRRO, to date, has not rejected a redesign plan submitted for any priority school (with the possible exception of the four priority schools in East Detroit). How do we know this? The statute tells us so.
The SRRO admits that not one school has been placed in the state reform district under § 1280c(6). Moreover, only one CEO has been appointed under § 1280c(7) — for the four priority buildings in the East Detroit Public Schools district. In other words, the statutory framework reveals that the SRRO has approved the redesign plan for every single priority school in the state, possibly aside from those in East Detroit.
Once a priority school’s redesign plan has been approved or approved with changes, the local board must be given an opportunity to implement the plan under § 1280c(5) at the beginning of the next school year. Thereafter, the priority school may not be placed in the state reform district — nor may a CEO be appointed for the school — unless the SRRO “determines that the redesign plan is not achieving satisfactory results.” MCL 380.1280c(6).
What standards is the SRRO planning to use to determine whether a priority school’s redesign plan is “achieving satisfactory results”? It hasn’t said. But this much is clear: The SRRO’s final determination that a school’s redesign plan is “not achieving satisfactory results” must be authorized by law and not arbitrary and capricious. See, e.g., Const 1963, art 6, § 28; Northwestern Nat’l Cas Co v Insurance Commissioner, 231 Mich App 483, 488; 586 NW2d 563 (1998). Stated differently, the SRRO’s final determination that a redesign plan is “not achieving satisfactory results” must be made deliberatively, with reference to sufficient principles and standards, and without improper motives. I’m still waiting for the SRRO to publish a list of principles and standards that it will use to make these individualized determinations.
Until the SRRO determines that a priority school’s redesign plan is “not achieving satisfactory results” (with reference to adequate principles and standards), it may not issue an order placing that school in the state reform district or appointing a CEO. And until that happens, the SRRO may not order “school closure” for that priority school under § 1280c(6) or (7).