Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons recently editorialized on her qualifications for the position as the chair of the House Education Committee. The 32 year old farmer’s daughter didn’t cite her scant real estate background, nor her degree in agriculture, or even the closest she’s come to “leadership” in public education — her position as point guard on her high school basketball team.
Nope, the one shining skill Lyons boasted she brings to the job is her ability to successfully breed. Lyons postulated that as a mother of four children she has “a great interest in public education and an immense passion for the kids in our schools”. No doubt, she is a fine and loving parent, and most certainly cares deeply about all aspects of her offspring’s well-being — like, say, their dental health, but parental devotion alone does not imbue her with any special insights into orthodontia — nor does it to education policy.
Democracy Tree lauds her ability to replicate — but, not so much her knowledge of public education.
Take her pet project, the Education Achievement Authority, which is little more than a naked power-grab on the poorest performing schools in the state, which by-and-large will continue to be from Detroit Public Schools — a district that has fared poorly under ongoing emergency management with no end in sight. The EAA was the brainchild of the current DPS Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts. The scheme was sold to lawmakers as a compassionate helping-hand for those under-achieving schools. It is not lost on critics of the plan that this is a way to enhance the DPS measured performance, simply by cutting its “dead weight”. These schools are taken-over by force, by an unelected, state-appointed chancellor, who enjoys authority similar to an Emergency Manager, and in spite of Lyons’ mewing protestations that this is not a privatization scheme, claiming the schools will still technically be run by the state, the Chancellor has sweeping powers to privatize each school by component — teachers, staff, food service, transportation, and online learning. It’s like that old joke: here’s the axe that was used to chop down the cherry tree,…of course the handle had to be replaced,…and so did the head…but, intrinsically speaking, it occupies the same space.
The EAA is not yet codified into law, although the Michigan House passed its new 2013 version (HB 4369) last month. Currently there are 15 schools from DPS which have been under the pro tem authority of Chancellor John Covington. He is discovering that funding issues are at the core of the problems these schools face, and has been begging for money in excess of what the state would allow for comparable schools.
Lyons concluded her defense of the EAA with a declaration of its (relative) success:
“Opponents say that since the EAA has only been operational since September, there isn’t enough data to prove its success and that we should wait. The facts are clear: student attendance and parental involvement have increased dramatically under the EAA.”
Well, actually Lisa, there is some data — but you failed to mention it. The MEAP database for the Education Achievement System – EAS, (the proper name of the “school district”) is scandalous. Sure, it’s early in the process, but it’s certainly not showing even a tiny bit of improvement. Their proficiency levels are as follows:
- 3rd Grade proficiency in math is o.9 %, and reading 15.5 %
- 4th Grade math is 2.1%, reading 11.8%, and writing 4.9%
- 5th Grade math is 5.6%, reading 27.1%, and science 0%
- 6th Grade math is 0.3%, reading 23.3%, and social studies 0.3%
- 7th Grade math is 4.3%, reading 17.9%, and writing 7.5%
- 8th Grade math is 0.5%, reading 21.6%, and science 0%
- 9th Grade social studies 0.7%
Senator Bert Johnson, who represents the Detroit area, also recently penned an editorial on the EAA. It’s clear he doesn’t want Lyons calling the plays in his district. Unlike the Lyon’s piece, Johnson provides thoughtful content, with four pages of facts and figures. Here’s an excerpt:
“Because several EAA schools are in my district — and all of them are in my hometown — I’ve visited them multiple times and not on sanctioned dog-and-pony shows set up through Gov. Snyder and his appointee, the EAA chancellor. Here’s a brief look at the day-to-day realities of the EAA:
• Rather than putting experienced teachers in these “under-performing schools,” roughly two-thirds are Teach for America students — who get five weeks of “teacher training” the summer before they are assigned, with no other certification required.
• At Pershing High School, a dozen TFA students walked off the job, and I have received reports of several who have broken down in staff meetings, unable to handle the rigors of teaching. In some cases, athletic department staff are teaching students.
• Reports of student abuse, including a child whose mouth was taped shut for being too talkative.
• Abuse of special needs students, including unilateral changes to Individualized Education Plans without input from parents, therapists and counselors. This is illegal.”
In the mean time, the Michigan Senate remains poised to pass their version of the EAA.
What do you think the chances are that Ms. Lyons would consider sending her four children to an EAA school? Not drinkin’ the water….is my guess.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project