Michigan’s Superintendent of Public Education Michael Flanagan announced today that he plans to move more schools into the Education Achievement Authority starting in January. Approximately ten academically struggling schools are to join the current 15 that were vacuumed-up last year from Detroit Public Schools. The announcement comes amidst growing criticism over the state-run district’s efficacy and fiscal health.
Senate Democrats took issue with the EAA last week pointing to its inability to prove their worth. Sen. Bert Johnson (D-2) put it this way:
“The shortcomings of the EAA are well documented. From flawed accounting practices to a lack of results in the classroom, the EAA has made many promises of getting better, but has failed to deliver.”
Pressure from educators across the state and faculty members at Eastern Michigan University spurred the resignation of EAA board member Jann Joseph last week. Joseph is the dean of the college of education at EMU. Faculty cited concerns about the affiliation with the EAA:
“These negative impacts on our reputation, our local relationships, our students and programs, the clear effect on enrollments and thus revenue to the university are a repudiation of EMU’s legacy as a champion of public education and a leader in the preparation of educational professionals. We implore you to remedy this situation as quickly as possible by unanimously voting to withdraw from the contract creating the EAA.”
The EAA has yet to demonstrate its value, and has a history of shady revenue deals. Last year they borrowed $12 million from DPS in a hush-hush contract, and through a freedom of information request it was discovered that EAA Chancellor, John Covington, lied on an application for a $35.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Documents revealed that the grant application the EAA submitted overstated the legal authority of the nascent school district in order to gain approval. The application claimed that the EAA had already received its legislative stamp of approval even though at the time neither the Senate or House had passed the EAA bill, and it wasn’t until March of this year that the House passed their version, while in the Senate it remains stalled in committee as of this date.
Chancellor Covington tried to explain the falsehood away thusly to The Detroit News: “It was absolutely, totally presumptive. That was the only way we could write the grant.”
Apparently, the lying paid-off for Covington — the EAA was approved for an initial grant payment of $1.6 million — the amount requested for the first year to run the current 15 schools in the district.
There remains a push among GOP lawmakers to codify the EAA into law, a move which would give them more authority to seize academically challenged school districts from local control, and provide greater funding opportunities for the controversial project.
Where Democrats see students, Republicans see dollar signs. And their little EAA venture isn’t paying-off by any measure. They desperately need more students (funding) in the wake of a reported 25 percent enrollment decline, and absorbing more reluctant schools is the only way to get them.
Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-27) sees it differently:
“The EAA was an experiment, and the results of that experiment are coming in. Since taking over 15 schools, the EAA has needed emergency infusions of cash to operate, seen enrollment decline and been the center of criticism on the part of students, parents and its own teachers. Now, one of its own board members doesn’t want to be associated with the EAA. The EAA is not working and should be shut down.”
It’s time to restore local authority and democracy to these schools before it’s too late. Michigan’s children are not dollar signs, nor guinea pigs, for GOP experiments.
Amy Kerr Hardin