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June 17, 2002 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2002-06-17

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, June 17, 2002
* letters@michigandaily.com Editor in Chief Editorial Page Editor
STUDENTS AT THE Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect theopinion of
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN the majority of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
SINCE 1890 necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
L ocal control is one of the cornerstones of inflated by calculations which counted transfers
public education in the United States, 9u D C-less ed ucation as drop-outs and that the entire school system
arising from the realization that commu- had actually run a budget surplus for years. In
oity involvement and oversight is central to aca- SiXth Circuit ruling suppresses public role in Detroit schools all, the plaintiffs made a compelling argument
demic success. Critics of local control often that the motivation for the bill was not genuine
point to urban school systems to challenge the concern for the problems that face Detroit pub-
viability local school board governorship while led takeover of the city's schools is in fact con- The court held that although the effects of the lie schools, but a misguided powergrab.
promoting centralization and concentration of stitutional. code disproportionately effect African- The court dismissed these points as ancil-
power in state and executive bodies. Such criti- The questionable reasoning upon which the Americans' right to elect their school board lary to the unique nature of a public school
cism has gained the support of state legislatures court's decision rests fails to fully consider the members -- of which Detroit's population is system that serves over 180,000 students. The
nationwide who are quick to strip local authori- important concerns raised by the plaintiffs who nearly 80 percent and well over 90 percent of court refused to accept claims made in ansicus
ty from urban schools. represent 10 organizations of students, teachers the Detroit Public School System's students are curiae briefs, most notably one from the
In 1999, the Michigan legislature passed the and city residents. First, the plaintiffs contend - disproportionate impact alone is insufficient American Civil Liberties Union, that the bill
Michigan Revised School Code, which that the code constitutes an act of local legisla- to prove that legislators acted with insidious infringes upon the fundamental right of
installed a seven-member reform board over tion in violation of Michigan's constitution. racial discrimination. Detroit parents to direct the education of their
Detroit Public Schools with six members The court reasoned that, although the code The plaintiffs also presented evidence that children. In affirming that the state may dis-
appointed by Detroit's mayor and the seventh applies only to the Detroit Public School sys- the Michigan State Legislature relied heavily on mantle this right, the court has set a dangerous
filled by the state superintendent of schools, tem because the code does not mention the city anecdotal evidence concerning the schools' aca- precedent throughout the 6th Circuit's jurisdic-
who retains full veto power over all board deci- by name, it does not represent an act of local demic performance, drop-out rates and fiscal tion that will bolster other state legislatures'
sions. The installation of the reform board was legislation. responsibility in its decision-making process. efforts to strip communities of their role in
met with immediate protest from concerned Second, the plaintiffs contend that the code The plaintiffs provided expert testimony that public education. It will limit communities
community members that culminated in a violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as it showed that standardized test performance was from mounting successful legal challenges to
promising legal challenge. However, last denies Detroit voters the right to elect their more of an indicator of socio-economic status regain this right and stands to impart great
Wednesday the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals school board while allowing all other Michigan rather than academic achievement. They harm by excising a vital component from pub-
affirmed a lower court decision that the state- citizens to elect their school board members. showed that drop-out rates in Detroit were lic education.





Brownfields' burden
City needs to be creative with contaminated sites
T he Ann Arbor City Council will Because the contamination was the result of
decide today whether to approve the a dry cleaner's chemical dumping 40 years
higher standards for brownfield ago, it would be impossible to hold the orig-
cleanup recommended to them by the city's inal polluter accountable for the costs of
Environmental Comnission. The standards cleanup.
are significantly higher, but they may prove Cleanup of the site, however, is crucial. If
to be a deterrent to the redevelopment of Ann Arbor's brownfields go undeveloped,
Ann Arbor's brownfields because develop- they will remain a perpetual health and envi-
ers will be expected to pick up the costs. The ronmental hazard to the community. This is
council should approve the stricter stan- unacceptable. So while the city should hold
dards, but it should also work to encourage property owners to the strictest environmen-
private developers to purge the sites of con- tal standards, it should do everything in its
tamination. power to secure the assistance of
Brownfields - areas that have The council should developers in the essential task
been polluted with compounds approve the of cleanup.
like arsenic, lead and PCBs - stricter standards, Developers can provide cru-
pose serious health and environ- but it should also cial funding and coordination in
mental risks to their communities. work to encourage reclaiming brownfields. They
Redeveloping them not only limits private developers will eventually profit off the
these risks, but also addresses sus- to purge the sites land and should be expected to
tainability and urban planning of contamination, put forward a reasonable
problems that plague cities like amount of capital toward
Ann Arbor. It allows for the re-use of land cleanup costs.
that is already linked to existing infrastruc- Currently, mechanisms such as federal
ture, thus reducing urban sprawl and provid- and state grants and loans exist in order to
ing development sites within developed create incentives for businesses to redevel-
areas as opposed to outlying green spaces. op brownfields. But in many cases the cost
Redevelopment can also result in the reju- of removing contaminants from brown-
venation of struggling city districts. fields is still high enough to deter develop-
An Ann Arbor News story from last ers. Ann Arbor needs to create additional
Tuesday illustrates the difficulty local gov- incentives to encourage brownfield rede-
ernments face when trying to balance high velopment so that contaminated land is
environmental standards with the expenses reclaimed as quickly as possible. Peter
of brownfield cleanup. Developer Peter Allen intends to build affordable housing
Allen owns property at Maiden Lane and on the Maiden Lane and Broadway site,
Broadway in Ann Arbor's Lower Town. His more of which is needed in Ann Arbor. To
property is contaminated by tetra-chloroeth- allow him to build elsewhere would be a
ylene, a chemical that can cause liver and shame. Brownfield recovery is an impor-
kidney damage. Under the proposed tant step toward redirectingurban planning
cleanup guidelines, Allen would be expect- policy towards more sustainable communi-
ed to shoulder the additional cleanup costs, ties. It should be a priority for the City of
a figure that could reach $1 million. Ann Arbor..

The real thought police
Students' expression is central to educational mission
outh Lyon High School's under- District. In Tinker, the court affirmed that
ground newspaper, The First the threshold for expressive behavior
Amendment, trumpets itself as the cannot be limited "without any evidence
best means to challenge the school's that the rule is necessary to avoid sub-
administrators and prevailing opinions. stantial interference with school disci-
However, this mission was attacked pline or the rights of others." In
when the publication earned the harsh Hazelwood, the court upheld the right of
retribution of the school's administrators schools to limit content in a school-spon-
who suspended four students for sored publication in extremely specific
attempting to distribute the newspaper. circumstances. However, Justice Byron
The American Civil Liberties Union has White's majority opinion explicitly states
filed a suit against the school students "cannot be punished
in response to the punishments While the courts merely for expressing their
which has chilled the students' will overturn the personal views on the school
ability to express their beliefs. school's decision, premises." The applicable law
The suit rightfully argues that it is particularly clearly shows the school is at I
the the high school violated the troubling that the fault.
constitutional right of its stu- administrators While the courts will over-
dents to publish and distribute sought to sup- turn the school's decision, it is
their ideas. press the opinions particularly troubling that the
In South Lyon, students of its students. administrators sought to sup-
began the newspaper partially press the opinions of its students.
in response to faculty supervision and The criticisms of publication may have been
control of the school-sponsored newspa- bothersome to administrators, but as educa-
per. The First Amendment offered a tors, they should understand that these dis-
venue for students to express their often senting opinions are the lifeblood of a
unpopular opinions, ranging from criti- robust educational institution.
cisms of stereotypical Arab and Muslim These rights are especially relevant in 4
jokes to arguments against standardized high schools where many students shy
tests, such as the Michigan Educational away from controversy and refrain from
Assessment Program. Without the expressing contrarian or provocative
administration involved, writers and edi- views. Engagement with these ideas pro-
tors were able to freely state and argue vides students with an education that
for their beliefs. The First Amendment they are unable to find solely within the
provided an alternate forum that was oth- classroom and encourages them to be
erwise absent at the school. actively involved with their education.
The ACLU's challenge rests on excel- The arguments and debates that dissent-
lent legal ground. The Supreme Court ing views generate prepare students for 4
established the relevant caselaw in two civil life in a democratic society. This
cases, 1988's Hazelwood School District v. preparation is a responsibility of our
Kuhlmeier and 1969's Tinker v. Des schools that should not be shirked or dis-
Moines Independent Community School missed as insignificant.

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