Detroit, Education — February 19, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Rep. Ellen Lipton responds to news that State Departement of Education is ending exclusivity contract with the EAA


I don’t normally just reprint press releases but this one is so well done and so perfect that I couldn’t really add much to it. Ellen Lipton has been a fierce, fierce warrior in the battle to save Michigan’s public schools. Along with Sen. Hopgood, she was, for far too long, a lone voice calling out the Education Achievement Authority for its failed model. She put nearly $3,000 of her own money down to get data from the EAA that Chancellor John Covington refused to give her and then, when he had no choice because she filed a FOIA request, he dumped thousands and thousands of pages of data on her, unsorted and nearly unreadable.

Yesterday he had the audacity to suggest that it wasn’t a data dump at all and that she asked for it.

If you haven’t already, grab a beverage and read my interview with her from last September. You’ll come away as impressed and fired up as I was, I assure you.

In her press release, Rep. Lipton points out two very important points. First, if Republican House Education chair Lisa Lyons had any credibility at all, she would call for hearings over the things that have been revealed about what’s happening in the EAA over the past month here at Eclectablog. Second, the Democrats have an alternative to the EAA and they can’t get a hearing on their legislation either. While Lyons and Covington insultingly describe those of us who oppose the EAA as “supporting the status quo” and “criminal”, Democrats are proving otherwise. They do, in fact, hate the status quo and want to solve the intractable problems in Detroit Public Schools that have been ongoing for decades. The difference is that their approach involves all of the interested stakeholders: parents, teachers, administrators, community members, and education experts. The EAA model brings in people determined to destroy public schools to take them over to mold into their own image and vision for educating children on the cheap and for a profit.

Diane Ravitch put very well today:

After a series of exposes on Eclectablog about poor conditions of teaching and learning in Governor Rick Snyder’s so-called Education Achievement Authority for failing schools, the Michigan State Department of Education terminated an exclusivity agreement with EAA.

This leaves open the possibility that the state education department might try some evidence-based practices–like smaller classes, experienced teachers, wraparound services–to support the state’s low performing schools instead of clustering them in a district with large classes and inexperienced teachers.

Here’s the press release:

LANSING – State Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) said today that the state superintendent of education’s decision to end its exclusive agreement with the troubled Education Achievement Authority (EAA) signals a profound lack of confidence in the organization used by the state to takeover local schools. On Wednesday, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan, who signed his authority over school reform to the experimental EAA for 15 years in 2011, asked to get it back immediately, apparently due to deep concerns about the EAA’s many failures – but EAA Chancellor John Covington refused. Given the crumbling relationship between the EAA and Flanagan, Lipton said the EAA must be brought to a halt, not expanded, as Republicans in the Legislature are seeking to do.

As a result of the clash between the EAA and Flanagan, promises by EAA supporters that House Bill 4369, currently pending in the House, would allow troubled schools to be overseen by Intermediate School Districts or charter schools are incorrect. Due to Covington’s arrogant position and the poorly conceived contract signed by Flanagan, the state must wait a year before regaining authority over troubled districts, according to internal Department of Education documents obtained by Lipton today.

“This is evidence of a governor, a state education department and an experimental educational entity flying off the rails,” Lipton said. “Why did Gov. Rick Snyder allow Superintendent Flanagan to give authority over school reform to an unproven entity – the EAA – managed by an individual with a track record of failure in his previous job in Kansas City? Why did Flanagan agree to give up his department’s authority for 15 years back in 2011? Why won’t Covington relinquish his control back to the state after being asked to do so by Flanagan? And why won’t the governor, through his control over the EAA Board of Directors that hired and can fire Covington, demand Covington to immediately return control to Flanagan or be removed from office?”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Jase Bolger and House Education Committee Chairwoman Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons refuse to hold any hearings that could shed light on this troubling situation. Instead, Bolger and Lyons continue their efforts to jam through state takeover legislation before the EAA’s Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) results are available in March.

“Rep. Lyons on a radio show Tuesday said she no longer believes MEAP testing is important in determining whether the EAA is successful or not. This is an astounding about-face for a lawmaker who up to now has said standardized testing should be used for every school decision, from tenure to teacher pay to measuring school success. It’s apparent that the current school reform measures passed by the majority and supported by this governor are failing badly and are in disarray,” said Lipton.

Lipton called on Lyons to hold hearings on HB 5268, which provides for community-based reform efforts instead of handing schools over to an arrogant state-run district such as the EAA. Having the community engaged is essential to school success. As a statewide organization, the EAA can never successfully develop local solutions to school issues – indeed, the EAA has canceled its two most recent school board meetings, which provide limited community involvement, and refuses to post up-to-date financial data on its website that could allow parents to better learn its fiscal situation.

“It’s time to stop letting out-of-state, for-profit education advocates like Eli Broad – who internal emails show has been running the EAA from afar – have control over school reform in Michigan, and return our schools to local control,” said Lipton. “It’s appalling to see Republicans ignore the wishes of parents and invite people like John Covington to come from outside of the state to destroy our constitutionally mandated, democratically based, locally controlled public education system.”