LANSING Chalk one up for the Establishment. It knows how to use the political process to choke its rivals. Thanks to a single sentence inserted in a bill that passed the legislature in July, a school for dropouts in Detroit that was run by another district must go out of business.
A year ago, the Romulus school district gained statewide attention when it crossed its boundary and opened a school within Detroit to attract students who had dropped out of Detroit schools. Romulus hired a private firm, Baron Schools, to manage the school and christened it the "Baron-Romulus School of Choice." Even though the school was explicitly aimed at serving dropouts, for which Detroit was receiving no state aid, the city opposed it strongly and fought it in court.
The courts refused to close the school, and the state Department of Education recently determined that it qualified to receive public funding. That left the legislature as Detroits next recourse, and a friendly legislator did the job with a few words buried deep within a routine school aid bill. The words, while never mentioning any particular school or locality, were chosen so cleverly that the Baron-Romulus School is the only school to which the language could possibly apply.
The result? The school will close. Two hundred and twenty five staff members will be out of jobs. The 2,700 students who had enrolled for the fall will take a walk, and probably not in the direction of the Detroit schools from which they dropped out in the first place, or any other school, for that matter. But the Detroit district can bask in the satisfaction that Romulus was taught a lesson: The system is more important than the kids.