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Friday, March 22, 2013
EAA passes House
[Gongwer, 21 March 2013] EAA Passes House With Big Changes
The House passed a bill today that would codify the Education
Achievement Authority and allow it to handle 50 low-performing schools
throughout the state, but also provides schools with an option to come
under the oversight of their intermediate school district instead.
The bill (HB 4369*) narrowly passed 57-53, and would expand the current
15-school program in Detroit to 50 of the lowest-performing schools
throughout the state.
Three Republicans voted no: Rep. Jon
Bumstead (R-Newaygo), Rep. Ben Glardon (R-Owosso) and Rep. Peter
Pettalia (R-Presque Isle), and all Democrats voted no. Rep. John Olumba
(I-Detroit) joined 56 Republicans in support of the bill after a lengthy
speech denouncing his former Democratic colleagues as captive to
special interests and ruing a change to the bill that phases in the
expansion to 50 schools instead of immediately going to 50.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel denounced the expansion of the
Education Achievement Authority, which Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons
It marked a big step forward for an issue that failed
to get off the ground in the 2011-12 term despite a big push from
Governor Rick Snyder, who again has made it a top priority. The EAA
currently functions through an interlocal agreement between Eastern
Michigan University and the Detroit Public Schools, but officials want
it in statute with additional features.
Republican leaders were determined to get a bill passed Thursday because
the House unexpectedly remained in session for more than seven hours
trying to find language that would enable them to find enough votes for
passage. Finally, just before 6 p.m., the House adopted three
And the big change was to allow the school board
that oversees a school in the bottom 5 percent of schools to instead put
that school under the oversight of its regional intermediate school
district to handle the responsibilities and functions the EAA otherwise
would have. Depending on the circumstances, the school eventually could
still wind up in the EAA if insufficient progress occurs under the ISD.
Another key amendment would ensure if the EAA hires a public school
employee who is part of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement
System that the employee will remain in MPSERS. That addresses a concern
about destabilizing the system.
Another amendment would
require notification of schools that the state school redesign officer
decides to put into the EAA during the first week in January of that
Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto), sponsor of the
bill, said when she walks through her children's school, she knows her
children are receiving a good education.
"All across this state
many parents can say the same of their kids' schools, and sadly many
cannot," she said. "Nothing, nothing breaks my heart more than to see
students trapped in schools that fail them year, after year, after
Ms. Lyons also said to those opposing the legislation
because of lack of evidence proving the EAA works, "there is plenty of
evidence showing the status quo does not work."
More than 10 Democrats spoke in opposition to the bill, including Rep. Nathan (D-Detroit).
"What disturbs me is we have not taken the time to determine whether or
not this particular model works," he said. "If it does, I'll be the
first one to say let's do it. But given the temperature in this room
today, how this legislation has moved through the House this session,
tells me this is not about making sure these children have the
opportunity, this is about much more. It tells me it is about control,
it is about wanting to see a certain group of folks in these schools."
Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) said the issues in these low-performing
schools include third- and fourth-graders who cannot read and trash that
rarely gets taken out.
"I've come to conclusion that something has to be done," he said. "The children in these schools cannot wait any longer."
But Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) said evidence shows
the EAA is a "failed experiment." She said the failures need to be
examined and "provide the leadership and guidance to input changes that
actually fix the problem."
Rep. Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage)
countered the speeches from House Democrats were "distracting at best,
and dishonest at worst."
Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills)
said he gets emotional when discussing the topic, because children are
being forced to stay in failing schools. He criticized the Democrats for
offering the solution of "more money."
"There has been plenty of money," he said.
House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said Thursday
morning that Democrats will be announcing education reform bills of
their own, with a specific timeline coming during the spring recess.
"This EAA bill is being passed off by Republicans as supposedly
meaningful education reform," Mr. Greimel said. "That is not what it is.
We as Democrats believe in education reform and we believe we need to
do more as a state to turn around our struggling school districts, but
the EAA will not do that."
The American Federation of
Teachers-Michigan released a statement shortly after the bill passed
saying the EAA will not help students learn.
politicians have shown once again that they have the wrong priorities
when it comes to public education," said David Hecker, president of AFT
Michigan. "The EAA's limited history provides no evidence that being
thrown into a state-run district is beneficial to schools. In fact, the
EAA's own data presented to the Legislature show that most of their
students are falling further behind their peers this year - why would we
rush to expand this system?"