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Article of Interest - Durant IV

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Appeals Court Shoots Down 'Durant IV'
MIRS, August 5, 2005
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The Court of Appeals ruled today that school districts failed to prove that the state pushed an unfunded mandate on them in 2000 when former Gov. John Engler created the Center for Education Performance and Information (CEPI), but didn't give school districts the money to run the program.

In siding with the state in Adair v. Michigan (No. 230858), the Court of Appeals all but put the death nail in the case known as "Durant IV." The case was so dubbed because it was the fourth high-profile suit in which school districts claimed the state violated the Headlee Amendment by dumping responsibilities on them without the money to pay for it. In the first three, the plaintiff's name was Durant.

The fourth was spurred by Executive Order 2000-9 when Engler created CEPI and the Database for Educational Performance Education (DEPE) and ordered schools to give the state certain student test scores so the information could be put on the Internet.

Daniel ADAIR, then-president of the Fitzgerald Public Schools Board, along with 464 school districts and taxpayers, filed suit against the state in November 2000.

The state argued, however, that it has broad powers to require school districts to submit data and that these reports it was asking for had always been required. The fact that it wanted these reports electronically shouldn't be considered an expense that triggers the Headlee Amendment.

The school districts provided evidence that school districts were forced to acquire new equipment and devote more staff time to collecting, maintaining and transmitting the data, but the court said it doesn't matter because the increased cost wasn't for a "new activity or service."

The Headlee Amendment's ban against unfunded mandates was an attempt to stop the state from passing off its responsibilities to locals without paying for it. In this case, the state isn't offloading any obligations to the locals, the court ruled.

Appellate Judges Michael TALBOT, Henry William SAAD and Karen Fort HOOD signed the decision.

Court Rejects Suit on School Board Reports
Gongwer News Service, August 5, 2005

Not every change in required school activities invokes Headlee Amendment provisions for state reimbursement of costs, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled in turning aside claims by several hundred districts for costs of maintaining records in an information database created in 2000.

The case (Adair v. State of Michigan, COA docket No. 230858) is the latest installment of the long-running dispute brought by schools against the state regarding unfunded mandates, the genesis of which was an ultimately successful claim for funds for special education.

The suit has already been up to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2004 that the record-keeping requirement for the new Center for Educational Performance and Information was a new mandate and sent the matter back to the Court of Appeals for a determination of whether compensation is owed.

In the ruling released Friday, the appellate court said the schools "failed to present documentary support from which it can be inferred that either (state law or an Executive Order creating CEPI) mandates the school districts to actively participate in the maintenance of data that the state requires for its own purposes."

The court agreed that the data involved was required prior to the settlement of the special education case, which resolved all claims of underfunded activities, and that the data existed at the districts as a byproduct of normal operations.

The schools had contended that while some of the data was maintained, the records and data reported required by CEPI represented a dramatic increase in district activity.

While the court agreed the data provisions meant schools had to acquire new equipment and devote increased staff time to the generating the proper reports, it said the Headlee amendment is not implicated because it stands as a guard against the state shifting its costs back to local entities such as schools.

What the schools failed to prove, wrote Judge Michael Talbot, is "that the new data they are now required to collect and maintain is data for which the districts have no use and would not otherwise collect and maintain but for the dictates of the CEPI."

The opinion was signed by Judges Henry Saad and Karen Hood.

Dennis Pollard, attorney for the schools, had just received the decision and declined immediate comment.


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