Local Politics

Roy Roberts on dealing with DPS board: 'Worst months of my life'

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts told the editorial board of The Detroit News that the past weeks have been “two of the worst months of my entire life.”

Why? He’s had to “work” with the DPS school board. Once the referendum on the state’s stronger emergency manager law, Public Act 4, was placed on the November ballot this summer, the law reverted to PA 72 – the weaker version. That meant Roberts had to face the difficulties of his predecessor Robert Bobb, who also had to deal with the school board.

That’s because under PA 72, the state-appointed emergency financial managers only have control over finances – not academics, too, as they do under PA 4. Plus, PA 4 allows managers to modify contracts, which is really the only way to realize the cost cuts necessary to fix existing fiscal problems.

And given the rough time Roberts has had the past few months, he wrote a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder this week pretty much spelling out that he’ll step down if PA 4 isn’t upheld next week. That would be a shame as he’s done much the past year and a half to cut the district’s deficit and institute education reforms that could actually make a difference.

But the school board has made it loud and clear it would do everything in its power to unravel these measures. Because, as Roberts understands, the board cares about its own authority and influence – the children be damned.

So it’s good news to see public opinion is leaning toward keeping PA 4 in place.

Ingrid Jacques
Ingrid Jacques is deputy editorial page editor at The Detroit News.