Education — March 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

BREAKING: House may vote on EAA expansion legislation soon, State Board of Ed President says, “Not the time” (UPDATED x2)


It appears that the state House may vote on HB 4369, legislation that would expand the State school reform/redesign (SSRR) school district (which includes the EAA), today or in the very near future, perhaps even yet today. Word I have been getting is that the bill has changed since the Senate passed it.

In response to this movement, State Board of Education President John Austin and State Board of Education Secretary Dan Varner issued the following statement saying that now is not the time to pass this bill:

Not Time to Pass EAA Expansion Bill

While historically supporting the EAA and hoping to help it succeed, now is not the time to move legislation expanding its scope. Four of our State Board colleagues have already voiced their opposition.

House Bill 4369 is not a coherent nor effective school turnaround strategy. Michigan is the only state in the union creating a completely unregulated marketplace of new schools, which is now hurting the performance of all schools, and a school turnaround district (the EAA) which directly runs schools instead of holding a portfolio of competent school management entities accountable.

This bill simply contributes to Michigan’s patchwork of legislation, passed piecemeal, that has left us with an incoherent and failing school turnaround effort.

We reiterate the call, made unanimously by us and our colleagues on the State Board of Education, that empowers a variety of educational entities and options to manage school turnaround efforts– including the Michigan Department of Education; but with clear criteria and performance standards that would have to be met by any entity before it would be eligible to manage a school.

I will update this post as more information becomes available.

Adding…It’s worth noting that with this statement, three-quarters of the State Board of Education have now come out against expansion of the EAA. Four other Board members, Michelle Fecteau, Kathleen Straus, Casandra Ulbrich, and Lupe Ramos-Montigny, did this last month.

UPDATE: Apparently there was not a vote today though I understand the Republicans are within 3 votes of having enough to pass this bill so we may be close to seeing this epic fail of an experiment expanded statewide very soon. Sources tell me that House Education Committee Chair Lisa Lyons spent considerable time with officials from the Grand Rapids school district leading some to believe they were discussing carving out an exception for Grand Rapids schools in exchange for support for the bill (or at least no active opposition.) The superintendent and other top school officials from the Grand Rapids schools recommitted to their unequivocal opposition to the EAA in response, I am told. Lyons has a history of trying to work protections for family and supporters into legislation as if the House was her own personal grift bag. She tried to exempt her husband’s union in the right to work legislation that was eventually signed into law in 2012.

I’ve also heard speculation that the sudden and unexpected activity to pass this bill today stems from a meeting of education related individuals and groups called by Governor Snyder to see if progress could be made quickly. It appears that our governor truly thinks this is a winning issue for him, despite the widespread opposition from so many groups within the education sphere and outside of it, as well.

A pro-EAA op-ed on may be part of Governor Snyder’s push. It’s a rather bizarre essay that suggests that the MEA is against the EAA because the fifteen schools in the EAA aren’t unionized. Considering how small a number of schools that is (we have 550 school districts in Michigan), it’s an absurd.. no, it’s a LAUGHABLE suggestion. The author of the piece, Gary Wolfram, claims that “the schools are making progress” which is an absolutely ludicrous statement given the facts. The fact that Wolfram is a former state Board of Education member is as frightening as it is astonishing.

Be on the lookout for other fronts in the Governor’s battle to expand the EAA statewide. It’s almost as if he has corporate campaign funding riding on it…

UPDATE 2: Two Democrats, John Olumba & Harvey Santana, are rumored to have broken ranks to support this bill. Consider reaching out to them, asking how they will vote and letting them know they should not only not expand this failed experiment with Detroit students, they should be pushing to END it.