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House approves expansion of failing district

LEFT: State Rep. John Olumba, I-Detroit; RIGHT: State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit vote to pass EAA legislation

LEFT: State Rep. John Olumba, I-Detroit; RIGHT: State Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit voted March 20 to approve expansion of EAA district

LANSING –  Michigan’s Republican-led House of Representatives approved March 20, legislation to expand the statewide experimental district for failing students, the Educational Achievement Authority.

The EAA was created in 2011 by an agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder, former Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts and Eastern Michigan University’s board of regents.

Fifteen DPS schools were taken to create what is now a failing district. See for other coverage on the EAA.

The controversial bill, HB4369, passed by a slim margin, 56-54, with two Detroit lawmakers — John Olumba, (I) and Harvey Santana (D) — supporting the legislation.

It makes lawful the taking of any “low-performing” public schools’ buildings, contents, teachers. It will return to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

Senator Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, criticized the House for passing a bill that would expand “the deeply flawed (system)” and called the passage a massive setback for the state’s education system.

“Since its inception, the EAA has been fraught with fraud, child abuse, neglect of special needs children, financial woes, skewed test scores, inexperienced Teach for America graduates replacing seasoned teachers, and a top-heavy administration led by an individual with a deplorable track record elsewhere,” Johnson said in a statement.

Johnson went on to say, “The EAA is an experiment that has been conducted on the children of Detroit for the past two years and it has failed,” Johnson said in a statement. “Yet in the face of alarming evidence, including a decrease in student proficiency on the most recent round of testing, 56 irresponsible state legislators voted in favor of expansion, choosing ideology and special interests over the wellbeing of Michigan’s children.”

He added that the expansion of the district will further undermine the state’s teacher retirement system.

The Michigan Citizen recently reported that the reform district created to help “failing students” exceed is not only failing those students, but also students who were once proficient.

Release of test data by Michigan Department of Education reveals the EAA’s failure.

“The 2013 MEAP cohort data show us, convincingly, most EAA students failed to make even marginal progress toward proficiency,” wrote Tom Pedroni, Director of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project and Associate Professor for Curriculum Studies at Wayne State University, in an analysis of the data. “The portrait is even grimmer for the small number of students who had entered the EAA already demonstrating proficiency. In math, 66 percent are no longer proficient. In reading, 37 percent are no longer proficient.”

Senator Hoon -Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, called the expansion legislation “half-baked.”

“The rushed passage of this…legislation is yet another obvious indication that Republicans in the Legislature are more concerned with getting anything passed out of their chamber than they are with passing policies of any caliber,” he said. “The lists of shortcomings of the EAA in its current form are extensive. In fact, if the EAA were any other school district in the state, Governor Snyder would have forced an emergency manager upon it long ago. Instead, because the EAA is a special pet project of the Governor, he has convinced Republicans in the Legislature to allow it to expand statewide.”

Ellen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, who has fought to expose the EAA’s damaging practices, calls Gov. Snyder’s experimental district a “deform district.”

Lipton said in an interview with Electablog, it “is abundantly clear the Broad Foundation, and specifically Eli Broad, was and still is intimately involved in the creation as well as the carrying out of the EAA.”

Johnson also believes the district is more about lining the pockets of the rich than it is educating Michigan’s children.

“It is clear that Michigan Republicans prefer to cater to their wealthy benefactors in the corporate community than to serve the families they were elected to represent,” Johnson said. “Michigan’s entire education system took one step forward to a massive setback with today’s passage of House Bill 4369.”

Under HB4369 no schools could be referred to the State School Reform/Redesign Office before Jan. 1, 2015, and could not be placed under the control of another agency before June 30, 2015.

In February, MDE Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced the EAA would no longer have an exclusive contract with the state to reform “failing” schools.



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