Education Achievement Authority – NOT Fiscally Responsible

How EAA Chancellor Covington can’t stay on budget:

The double-standard imposed on Detroit Public Schools by the Snyder Administration is the height of hypocrisy.

DPS was taken-over by an Emergency Manager with the claim that their $500 million dollar long-term debt was the result of fiscal irresponsibility of the elected school board and administration. The rationale was that bringing in a strong business leader to shore-up the balance sheet was just the remedy for years of supposed poor leadership. Starting with Robert Bobb in 2009, and now under former GM executive, Roy Roberts, Detroit students daily suffer the consequences of their misguided corporate tactics.

Under their leadership, the district has been subjected to brutal cut-back management practices typically found in the private sector for the purpose of “turning-around” a troubled company — which is code for: parting-it out like an old Buick. First cannibalized by the fire-sale of school assets, and more recently balkanized through the establishment of the Education Achievement Authority under Roberts, Detroit schools continue in a fiscal death spiral with little hope in sight. This new separate district, the EAA, was set-up to better “serve” the unique needs of under-achieving schools in DPS, with the intention of expanding the program statewide to capture the bottom 5 percent of academically stressed schools– along with their meager per pupil foundation grants. 

Under Chancellor John Covington, the EAA currently runs 15 schools from DPS, but is under pressure to rapidly expand that number to include 60 schools statewide . Plenty of money rides on their ability to grow the EAA to become what is projected to be the largest school district in the state with approximately 46,000 students — under the leadership of one un-elected official using non-union, under-compensated staff, operating day-to-day with shaky job security at best.

What’s the rush?

Of the 146 Michigan schools in the bottom 5 percent, EAA has tentatively targeted 45 schools for inclusion in their program. Among those on the short list we find additional DPS schools along with Pontiac, Grand Rapids and Southfield. A striking commonality among most of these districts, with the exception of Southfield, is they all receive some of the lowest per pupil allowances in the state — most of them at around the $7,000 mark.

Chancellor Covington knows that’s not enough money to run a school — even after breaking all the union contracts. So he’s applied for federal grant money that will 3X match state funding. The grant is predicated on an estimate of 60 schools within five years. And it’s not for peanuts — they would receive just over $40 million federal dollars in that period.

They must codify the legal status of the EAA through legislation as soon as possible so they can move forward acquiring schools, while firing elected school boards, administrators and employing non-union teachers.

Here’s what Chancellor Covington said in his holiday email to staff:

“…I am fully aware that there is much concern relative to whether there is sufficient support for the Education Achievement Authority and the work we are doing. We were all disappointed that the EAA was not codified as a statewide system of schools during the lame-duck session of the Michigan State Legislature, and the we did not make the final list of awardees for the Race to the Top funding by the United States Department of Education.”

He goes on to assure staff that they will get their law…

“I am very pleased to tell you that the Governor has advised me that House Speaker Bolger and Senate Minority Leader Richardville have agreed to each bring a busload of legislators to EAA Schools when they return to session. EAA legislation will be the top priority when they return in January. Additionally, Governor Snyder has asked me to hold January 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm for a Town Hall meeting being planned just for EAA.”

What they are saying in effect is: we need the law so we can get they money, because the state is not providing enough money to educate its children.

There’s another even more tragic consequence to the DPS saga of abuse and neglect. After all the budget-cutting, school closings, charter conversions, and EAA stripping of funds — the most vulnerable students are being left in dire straights. Special needs students in DPS are becoming a larger and larger portion of the school population. The statewide average is 12 percent, but DPS is struggling to serve 18 percent — that’s 9,000 students — all while under the cruel austerity measures of Emergency Manager Roberts. Their class sizes have doubled, yet among the expanded charter schools, only 10 percent serve special needs kids.

Emergency Managers and the Education Achievement Authority are damaging public education in Michigan in ways its short-sighted Governor can’t begin to comprehend. Snyder and Roberts are thinking like CEOs — it’s all about the quarterlies.

Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project

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1 Response to Education Achievement Authority – NOT Fiscally Responsible

  1. Susan McLellan says:

    I have been battling with Michigan Capitol Confidential about this very scam on Michiganders for some time now. Today a journalist attempted to convince readers this is a good deal for children and taxpayers, as they frequently do, everyday! I was happy to find your article and recommended they read it, my point exactly.

    Covington is a creep. He quit his job in Kansas, broke his contract and came to Detroit with nearly a half-million in salary and signing bonus…he left Kansas without accreditation. Great articles, you have a new fan.

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