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DPS wants federal probe

‘EAA, Snyder, Roberts’ unlawful spending’

By T. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — At its monthly meeting May 9, the Detroit Board of Education unanimously voted to seek a federal grand jury investigation into the “unlawful use of federal funds designated for use by the Detroit Public Schools (DPS).”

The Board claimed that the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), the former Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, Emergency Manager (EM) Roy Roberts, Gov. Rick Sndyer and other state officials “conspired to violate the law” in ways that were “unethical and unlawful.”

“This is the tiger that’s going to bite,” said Board Vice President Herman Davis, author of the resolution. “At the end of our watch, they can’t ask why didn’t you do something?”

Davis said a federal grand jury is necessary because “it’s what [former EFM] Robert Bobb said. He told the Board; he’d do what he wants to do until someone stops him.”

The resolution lists the reasons for calling for the federal investigation: the $12 million loan EM Roy Roberts authorized for the EAA from DPS; Snyder’s use of $7 million in mortgage relief money for the EAA; unauthorized transfer of $250 million in DPS bond construction projects to EAA; and the wrongful manipulation and falsification of test scores.

For its startup in Sept. 2012, the EAA took 15 DPS buildings, contents and students. Snyder promoted the EAA as a statewide district to help the lowest five percent of learners. He promised no state funds would be used and promoted his experiment as reform education.

Board President Lamar Lemmons said the EAA did not take “just the lowest five percent. We told them don’t take the whole school.” To Lemmons, it meant Snyder was not creating a reform district but a competing district.

Roberts’ $12 million loan from DPS to the EAA is troublesome for the elected board, which not only lacks power to do anything about Roberts’ actions, but cannot get any information it needs, Lemmons said.

DPS went from surplus funds to a deficit under the first state takeover in 1999. Gov. Jennifer Granholm used the state-created deficit as the reason to appoint Bobb as Emergency Financial Manager. Bobb added $100 million to DPS debt.

Davis said that Roberts is now loaning DPS money to the state-created EAA. At the EAA board meeting May 9, it was revealed that the EAA is operating with a $1.2 million dollar deficit. The balance on the debt it owes DPS is over $2 million and due in July. If EAA can’t pay, who pays DPS?

During discussion of the grand jury resolution, Board Member Ida Short said by law no school district can guarantee a loan for another district.

“When one entity isn’t eligible to borrow money and uses one who is eligible, it’s money laundering,” Lemmons said. “Why would you loan money to a competing district?” he asked. “Would GM loan Honda money? It’s a conflict of interest. At that time, Roy Roberts was chair of the EAA board and EM of DPS.”

Davis said the EAA’s manipulation of test scores has been documented by Wayne State Education Professor Tom Pedroni. The EAA’s unwillingness to reveal test scores has also been a problem for St. Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton and St. Board of Education Member Michelle Fecteau.

Federal funds bought many of the books and supplies contained in the buildings taken by the EAA, Davis said. The board asked for an inventory of what was in each building, but the EAA refused.

Voters approved a $250 million bond issue in 2009 that was used in the construction and renovation of schools. Many of the brand new schools, including Mumford High, were among those taken by the EAA, Davis said. “That $250 million intended for DPS was transferred to EAA by authority of Gov. Snyder, prior EFM, EM Roy Roberts and other state officials,” reads the resolution.

Davis said the request for a federal grand jury has been sent to Attorney General Eric Holder. The board attorneys are preparing a lawsuit to file in federal court as well, he said.

“All of this is their [the EAA] way of pulling the wool over the eyes of the public,” Davis said. “It’s a mirage they trying to build. They are privatizing education, trying to make money off of education. We have got to stop them.”

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