Education, Michigan Democrats, Michigan Republicans — April 24, 2014 at 7:06 am

After Senate Dems’ EAA hearing, Republicans short on votes for expansion – keep calling!


On Tuesday of this week Senate Democrats, led by Senators Bert Johnson and Hoon-Yung Hopgood, held a hearing about Governor Snyder’s failed experiment on Detroit students known as the Education Achievement Authority. They took testimony from Michigan State Board of Education Vice President Casandra E. Ulbrich and from EAA teachers Delbert Glaze, Jordan Smellie, Mechelle Seiglitz. They also heard from education advocates Prof. Tom Pedroni and Marcie Lipsitt, as well as Bulwa Wayne, grandmother of a 17 year Mumford student. I also submitted written testimony which you can read HERE.

The testimony was powerful. Here are excerpts from two of the teachers:

We do not have experienced people leading our district. We do not have experienced people leading many of our schools. We do not have experienced teachers leading our students in the classroom. We don’t have experience where experience is needed most. Our students who need the most support are not getting it. Our students who need resources more than anyone else are not getting them. Our students who need guidance are not getting it. Our students who need structure are not getting it. This is a a failed experiment. I believed in it. I moved 500 miles to be part of the EAA because I believed in its educational mission. It was a good try but it needs to end. This cannot be expanded. These schools are not functioning on their own and we cannot take more schools and put them into this system of chaos — the educational system run amok. This can’t expand.

During the hearing, EAA deputy chancellor Mary Esselman hung around outside the hearing room with students she had pulled from class and bussed up to Lansing to parade around as examples of how well the EAA is working. Esselman came to the EAA with Chancellor John Covington from Kansas City Public Schools which lost their accreditation shortly after their departure. She told reporters, “I absolutely don’t see failure.” What transpired inside the hearing room put lie to that notion suggesting that she’s either an oblivious administrator or a liar.

As has been typical throughout this process, Senate Republicans have indicated that a vote is imminent for the past few days but it’s clear that this is simply not the case. With the threat of Dick DeVos and others funding primary opponents now gone (the filing deadline was Tuesday), wealthy corporatists no long have that extortion threat to use against them. I am hearing that they are 5-6 votes short of having enough to pass and that is a huge number to try to sway.

Three Republicans appear to be on the fence: Darwin Booher, Tom Casperson, and Goeff Hansen. If you are in their districts, now is the time to call!

MIRS news service reports that some Senate Republicans are trying to leverage their EAA vote as a negotiating tool to achieve other goals, suggesting that they are less interested in making sure our schools are fixed than they are about achieving their own political ambitions:

However, a handful of GOP senators are apparently willing to do some horse trading with the executive office in return for their “yes” vote on the EAA bill.

The trio includes Sen. Joe Hune (R-Brighton), Sen. Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan) and Sen. Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.), who is still searching for an income tax cut.

Hune laughed when asked to appear on camera to explain the deal he was looking for. All he would say was, “How did you find this out?”

Brandenburg, the Macomb County senator, was more forth coming, confirming for MIRS that he offered his yes vote in return for the governor’s support for the income tax reduction the chair of the Senate Tax Policy Committee has been pushing since 2012.

“If I could get $100 million in the first year in tax relief, I’d take it yes. I would,” he said.

Reminded that some would call that horse trading, he did not flinch.

“That’s why they call it politics,” he smiled.

But the problem is the horse trader, Snyder, does not want to trade.

That being said, much of the threat of an impending vote appears to be bluster. Gongwer news service reported it this way yesterday:

[Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville] would like to deal with this issue in its current form in the Senate chamber,” said Amber McCann, Mr. Richardville’s (R-Monroe) spokesperson. “If they can’t get a vote, the majority leader’s preference would be to start anew. If we can’t find an agreement on this issue, perhaps we need to revisit it entirely, start from scratch. Maybe we’ve altered this too many times, maybe we just need to go back to the drawing board.

I believe that getting the facts out about the EAA has been critical to stopping its expansion. It’s amazing what a little disinfecting sunshine can do.