The more you dig, the more there is to break your heart
DEMS GET VOCAL ABOUT OPPOSITION TO THE EAA
Yesterday, House Democrats held a press conference slamming the Republican push to expand the EAA in face of recent allegations and no proof of improvement. During their comments, they described it as a power grab that puts kids in danger and “a bill that recklessly increases the power and scope of the EAA while doing nothing to help students in the state’s most challenged schools prepare for the best careers of the future.” They also point out that Democrats have “real solutions”, rather than a failed approach that’s doing more harm than good.
You can watch it in its entirety here:
One thing that has been pointed out by Rep. Brandon Dillon is that the substitute bill that was introduced this week has been tweaked to get votes. Rather than representing a solid educational policy and a proven model for helping schools and students, Dillon says that, “political considerations are certainly taking precedent over what the actual policy implications are.”
OTHER GROUPS COME OUT STRONG AGAINST THE EAA
In addition to the Dems in the Michigan legislature, numerous other groups have come out vigorously opposing the expansion. Michigan Association of School Boards, Middle Cities Education Association, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, and Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals all joined together to send a powerful letter to the state legislators detailing their opposition. Here are their reasons:
- Further erodes the retirement system. By not including the EAA in MPSERS, proposed legislation will raise retirement costs for all districts and the school aid fund.
- Doesn’t provide for alternative options. Legislation should provide additional options and tools for buildings, including granting ISDs the same powers as the EAA. Children and parents would be better served by a solution closer to home and leaders more familiar with the problems at hand.
- Chartering authority. The proposed substitute legislation provides the EAA through the School Reform District the same authority as other school districts under the Michigan Constitution. This will allow them to create charter schools and expand those charter schools anywhere in the state.
- Cherry picking. The bill prioritizes placement of K-8 buildings into the EAA. Those buildings are the lowest cost buildings but receive the same foundation allowance as other grades, focusing on financial feasibility rather than academic need of a building.
- No exit criteria. The bill does not provide an exit strategy out of the EAA and back to their local district, even for schools that are improving.
- Doesn’t mandate Open Meetings and FOIA participation. Gives discretion to the Department of Treasury on whether the EAA will participate in the Open Meetings Act and FOIA statute.
- Not a real cap. The proposed cap pertains only to the Statewide School Reform District and not the EAA and would allow buildings to pass through to the EAA negating the cap.
- EAA hasn’t demonstrated competency. NO academic data has been presented to warrant the expansion of the EAA.
CHERRY PICKING OF THE BEST SCHOOLS
Item number 4 in the letter sent to the legislature is something that has many people upset. I have heard that the EAA schools were chosen largely because they were newer schools or were in better shape. Mumford High School, for example, is brand new, and Southeastern High School was remodeled in 2002 with an entire new wing added. Meanwhile, many schools in the Detroit Public School system are in terrible shape.
Here is a letter sent to DPS Emergency Manager Jack Martin by DPS Board member Elena Herrada regarding the situation at Bates Academy that gives you a sense of just how bad some of them are:
Dear Mr. Martin,
I am writing to share with you the concerns expressed by the parents of Bates Academy. The school has been closed for the past week, including today, because of the condition of the building, not the weather.
There is standing water, roof leaks and mold and fungus that the students are exposed to while they are in school. The building has closed four days this week and last week there were early dismissals due to lack of heat.
Parents came to the meeting with several pictures to document the conditions of the building. They need immediate relief but were told by you that no improvements to their building would be made “until enrollment stabilizes across the district.”
Does this mean that while students sit in brand new buildings which have been siezed by the EAA, students in DPS are denied valuable class time because the conditions of the building are dangerous?
Please clarify and please contact Board Chairman Lamar Lemmons and Herman Davis.
Thank you for your attention to this concern.
Here are some photos from Bates Academy, taken by teachers there. Bates is considered one of the premier schools in the DPS system:
Since nothing like this is happening in EAA schools, it begins to look very much like things are being intentionally orchestrated to ensure that kids in DPS schools are hampered in their learning which will help EAA schools look better by comparison. Certainly the children at Bates Academy who have missed so much school are now behind their counterparts in other schools.
MORE ON EMU EDUCATION LECTURERS BEING FIRED
Yesterday I wrote about how Eastern Michigan University’s College of Education had fired nearly all of their full-time lecturers. As I mentioned, some have suggested that this was a move to pit the lecturers against Education Department faculty who are protesting EMU’s partnership with the EAA. An article in the Ypsilanti Courier today provides more context. In it, they point out that the fired lecturers are the people that work with students to place them in schools to do student teaching:
Many of the lecturers, like Olech, worked directly with student teachers and performed the task of placing them with schools in the area. Now, tenured faculty members will be left with the responsibility.
Since protests against EMU’s involvement with the EAA have included the Ann Arbor Education Association union’s decision not to accept EMU student teachers, this would suggest that the move is being done, at least in part, as a punishment of faculty who are vocal about their outrage.
WHERE ARE THE MEAP SCORES? SHOULDN’T LAWMAKERS WAIT?
One question that has surfaced in the past week is why the Republicans in the legislature are pushing the expansion so aggressively NOW. They muddled around with it all year last year but suddenly, there seems to be a hot rush to get it passed. Some are suggesting that they want the bill passed and signed into law before MEAP testing results are released since these may show little improvement in EAA schools or even backtracking compared with other schools. Last year, the MEAP results were available in the second week in February and the tentative schedule (pdf) for this year shows that they should have been made available to administrators in January. Have these results been reviewed already and found not to support the contention that the EAA is showing a solid turnaround in student achievement as measured by the MEAP test?
It seems to me that legislators SHOULD wait for the MEAP scores to come out so that they have an answer to that question BEFORE they vote on expanding the district statewide.
OTHER MEDIA OUTLETS PICK UP ON ECLECTABLOG REPORTING
Finally, it appears that other media outlets are picking up on the reporting I’ve been doing regarding EAA teacher accounts of what is happening in their schools. I know of at least three major outlets that are investigating and I am helping to connect them with the teachers. What’s interesting is that they are all willing to keep the teachers’ identities concealed to protect them, just as I have. However, when a blogger has “anonymous sources”, it’s portrayed as if that means the reporting lacks credibility or legitimacy. But when a traditional journalists do it, it’s A-OK.