Roberts speaks out following voters' rejection of Prop 1 - New York News

Roberts speaks out following voters' rejection of Prop 1

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By Taryn Asher
Fox 2 News Reporter


DETROIT (WJBK) -- There has been another move to remove the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools.  Meanwhile, Roy Roberts is speaking out for the first time since voters struck down the emergency manager law.

Everyone is still fighting for power, but the one person who currently has it is not sure if he wants it anymore since the game has changed.

"Go and educate the kids and go and reduce this deficit, and we've worked on that diligently," said Roberts.

He points to the proof.  Since he was appointed, he and his team have brought the district's deficit from $326 million to $74 million.

Roberts says in his 15 months, they have weeded out employee corruption, made necessary cuts, consolidated and closed schools, improved education, enrollment and held students accountable.

But his position is in question after voters took down Prop 1 repealing the emergency manager law.  Following the opinion of the attorney general, Roberts is now working under the old law, Public Act 72, which gives him limited powers that he says may not be enough to finish what he started.

"If you don't get the power that you need to do what you want to do, will you walk?" I asked him.

"I think I'd have to.  I will not be a part of hurting kids."

Robert Davis, who just filed a motion in the Court of Appeals to remove Roy Roberts, says he should already be gone.  His legal challenge one of several that claims both emergency manager laws are dead.

"Once Public Act 4 went into existence, Public Act 72 was no longer in existence.  It's as if it was never enacted back in 1990.  And consequently, as a result of the Michigan voters voting overwhelmingly to defeat Public Act 4 on November 6, that wiped out Public Act 4," he explained.

As the battle for power continues, Detroit School Board members are still trying to fight for theirs.  On Wednesday, a Wayne County judge adjourned a lawsuit filed by the attorney general, who wanted a majority of the board removed claiming they were unlawfully elected by districts.  It was a small victory for board president Lamar Lemmons, who feels like he's fighting an uphill battle and claims, even with the change in law, Roberts refuses to give up academic control.

"We want the authority granted to us under law and until we get before a judge that will tell him that we have at the very least academic authority," he said.

"You get eleven people, they can be all good people, but if they're not going the same direction, you can't get it done," Roberts remarked.

He feels the district will never get to where it needs to be until there is cooperation, and to date both Roberts and the school board can't even agree to meet.

"We've got 50,000 kids that are underserved, further behind than any kids you'd find in any school district around here, and we adults ought to be arguing and fighting over that.  That (makes) no sense to me," he said.

The Wayne County judge has adjourned the case against the school board until January.  We've learned the main reason is the legislature is working on some bills that could affect the school board and possibly give emergency managers their powers back.  We could hear something by mid-December.

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