Education

Rick Snyder May Be Recalled For His ‘Unconstitutional’ Takeover Of Schools

CREDIT: Carlos Osorio, AP

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is interviewed after visited a church that's distributing water and filters to its predominantly Latino parishioners, Friday, Feb. 5, 2016 in Flint, Mich.

Michigan officials have approved the circulation of a petition seeking to recall Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) — but not over the Flint water crisis that has been dominating the headlines in recent weeks. Instead, the petition focuses on his decision to take control of schools.

At issue in the petition is Snyder’s executive order to bring the Office to Reform Schools under the control of the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget. That decision gives the governor’s office more power to close schools, turn traditional public schools into charter schools, or replace school staff. The Board of Education says that move violates the state constitution, which does not provide the governor with direct control of the schools.

Benjamin Lazarus, a member of the Warren Consolidated Schools Board of Education, submitted the recall petition regarding the governor’s control of the Office to Reform Schools. Now that it’s been approved, organizers have 60 days to collect the 789,133 signatures needed to allow for a ballot measure recalling the governor.

The Board of State Canvassers unanimously approved Lazarus’ petition — and rejected six other petitions seeking to recall the governor over his handling of the Flint water crisis, which has led to elevated levels of lead in residents’ bloodstreams.

They cited errors in the language of the other petitions — such as incomplete sentences and spelling errors — and pointed out that the governor did not admit to personal failure for the crisis in his most recent state of the state address, as the petition writers claimed, because he said “the government failed you,” the Detroit News reported. As of 2012, state law requires the board to look out for these kinds of errors in petitions.

This recent development is a reminder that anger over the state of Michigan schools has coincided with outrage over the Flint water crisis.

Last month, Detroit teachers called in to protest the poor conditions of Detroit schools, which they documented on social media by posting photos of dead rodents, warped floors, moldy and rotten food, and malfunctioning bathroom facilities. Detroit Public Schools attempted to take legal action to stop the protests. In turn, the teachers union sued DPS, saying students were being deprived of a “minimally adequate education,” according to the Detroit News.

The Detroit teachers protesting school conditions have demanded the ouster of both emergency manager Darnell Earley and Gov. Snyder. Earley, the former emergency manager for Flint, was appointed to oversee Detroit schools just last month — and his involvement in the Flint water crisis further stoked outrage over school conditions. Subsequently, Earley announced he would step down by the end of this month.

UPDATE FEB 12, 2016 1:13:00 PM EST

This article initially said organizers have 180 days to collect signatures, based on reporting from NBC News. The Detroit News correctly reported organizers must collect signatures within 60 days under the 2012 recall law.

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