Detroit, Education, Emergency Managers — April 30, 2013 at 6:47 am

Why does Sen. Pavlov want even MORE schools in the Educ. Achievement Authority? Because it’s a cash cow?


Dude, slow down

Photo by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog

It looks like expansion of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) in Michigan is going to be put on hold, at least until this summer. Why? Because Republican Senator and Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov is unhappy. Why is Phil Pavlov unhappy? Because the EAA legislation passed by the House only allows for FIFTY SCHOOLS to be taken over by the state and put into their “school district for wayward schools”. Apparently Sen. Pavlov wants the state to be able to take over even MORE schools than that.

Republicans in the state Senate are demanding changes to a bill that would facilitate state takeovers of struggling schools.

Legislation to expand the state’s Education Achievement Authority passed in the state House last month.

But Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township) says the bill that passed in the state House doesn’t go far enough to protect students stuck in failing schools. {…}

Pavlov says he’s worried about language that would cap state takeovers through the EAA at 50 schools.

He also wants to remove a provision that would let regional public school officials take control of struggling schools instead of the state.

Pavlov says his committee probably won’t take up the bill until June at the earliest.

So, why is it that Sen. Pavlov is so upset that the state can only take over 50 schools? Looking at the amount of money being thrown at the EAA, I’m starting to wonder if it’s because he has dollar signs in his eyes.

Last week, we found out that the EAA has gotten $12 million in loans from the Detroit Public schools that nobody knew about until some pesky Democratic (Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton) took a peak behind the curtain:

Democratic lawmakers attacked the state’s school reform district Friday for using Detroit Public Schools as a conduit for $12 million in loans and for inadequately training security officers. {…}

The lawmakers’ accusations come as the state Senate is considering a bill that would establish the EAA in law and allow it to include 35 more schools statewide. Young said he does not support the bill, but he intends to introduce an amendment that would require more training for EAA security officers who currently do not receive training in first aid or CPR.

The security concerns come on the heels of accusations against the EAA from Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, a Democrat from Huntington Woods, who said the EAA had stalled and charged her $2,642.05 for documents she requested under the Freedom of Information Act last month. Lipton released the information this week, including documents that show that Detroit Public Schools took out loans through the Michigan Finance Authority’s state aid note program and gave the money to the the EAA to pay its bills. {…}

DPS took out a $6-million loan in September and passed the money on to the EAA to help with start up costs. The EAA repaid the loan in January and paid DPS an $87,000 markup on top of $30,000 in interest, said John Covington, chancellor for the EAA. In February, DPS took out another $6-million loan and passed the money on to the EAA. That is due to be paid off by July 22.

The board was never presented with information on the transactions, EAA board president Carol Goss said Friday. The board was not required to approve the transactions, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

The fact that the EAA cannot educate kids in poor school districts on the amount that they are given by the state even when the state itself is running them is not surprising, of course., at least not to the folks who have been struggling to do so for the past decade. I wrote about that earlier in the year when we learned that EAA Chancellor John Covington had applied for and recieved a multimillion dollar federal grant for the EAA. What shocked many of us at the time was that he got the grant based on increasing the number of schools in the EAA district to 60, something that the law currently does not allow. So, yeah, no wonder Republicans are in such a hurry eager to boost the size of the EAA. There are millions of dollars just sitting there for the taking — $35,491,095, in fact. NOTE: the strikeouts above are the result of a reader pointing out that the current law actually DOES allow for more schools and, in fact, the House bill that Sen. Pavlov dislikes so much puts a cap on the number that does not currently exist.

By the way, it’s worth noting that EAA schools are already receiving more than the schools in the Detroit Public School district:

The new statewide school district will have more money to spend on education next year than Detroit Public Schools because it will get more funding from the state, pay teachers less and offer no pension plan.

But that grant money is not the only money the EAA is getting. After narrowly missing getting a “Race to the Top” grant of between $5 million and $40 million (the EAA was the only Michigan finalist), it received a $10 million grant from the Broad Foundation. John Covington is a graduate of the “Broad Foundation Fellow” program and the Broad Foundation is a strong proponent of for-profit charter schools (read more on the Broad Foundation HERE.)

The EAA seems like a magnet for outside funding to flow into Michigan. If Republicans led by the pro-privatization Senate Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov and the Broad Foundation-trained Chancellor they have running the show can privatize some of that, it will be yet another conduit to funnel taxpayer funds and other monies directly into the bank accounts and profit statement bottom lines of for-profit education factories.

I personally think that most of the people involved with the EAA have a sincere desire to see Michigan’s worst schools get back on their feet and start to offer our kids a quality education. However, with the corporatists in the Michigan Republican caucus getting their greedy fingers on it, I worry. And those worries are justified.

I’ll leave you with one more thing: pulling the 40 worst-performing schools out of the Detroit Public School system should go a long way toward improving the test results of the remaining schools. That will make DPS Emergency Manager Roy Robert’s numbers look much, much better, giving Republicans an Emergency Manager success to hang their hat on.

That would be true, of course, if DPS testing scores weren’t still dropping.