After John Covington quit (or was forced out) as Chancellor of Gov. Snyder’s failed experiment with Detroit students — the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) — he was replaced by Veronica Conforme, the former chief operating officer of the New York City Department of Education. However, the ethically questionable behavior of the EAA is continuing under her watch.
This past week, parents of students outside of the EAA have been receiving letters from the EAA. The letters are recruitment letters, trying to bring in more students, but masquerade as official letters informing the parents that their students have been formally assigned to the EAA. Keep in mind that the EAA was created out of the schools with the poorest academic performance in Detroit.
The title of the letter is “Confirmation of 2014-2015 School Assignment”, which any parent would be forgiven for believing is a formal reassignment of their child to the EAA’s school. However, if you read the body of the letter, you see that it’s actually just an invitation and that their children have been “selected to enroll”. In other words, it’s an incredibly deceptive and unethical way to bring in new students from other school districts. The letters shown here, in fact, were sent to a parent in Ferndale, a suburb 12 miles north of downtown Detroit. This parent happens to be Karen Twomey, the secretary of the Ferndale Schools Board of Education and a teacher in Bloomfield Hills. As an informed educator, Twomey was able to spot the deception immediately. Not all parents would have that ability to see these letters for the deception that they are.
Parents with children in Detroit Public Schools have received these letters, as well, a direct violation of the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the EAA and DPS not to poach students from each others districts.
The EAA is struggling to keep its head above the water, just like so many other urban school districts are, largely because of a tremendous loss of population and state funding. This is despite the fact that EAA teachers are non-union and work without a contract. The top teacher salary in the EAA is actually less than the average salary of all Michigan teachers. However, that may soon no longer be true. Not because EAA teachers will be paid more but because the average teacher salary in Michigan is on the decline.
In our state, the average teacher salary has dropped 8.2% from 1999 to 2012, when adjusted for inflation. Michigan has seen the third highest decline in the entire country, behind only North Carolina and Indiana.
This has not happened by accident. The defunding of our schools, the push to replace public education with for-profit charters who often hire teachers on the cheap, and the overall demonization of teachers as the cause of the problems in our public education system rather than as victims (along with the parents and, most importantly, students) have all served to push teacher salaries lower and lower.
This pitting of one school district against another to get students is part and parcel of the “run schools like a business” model of the corporatists who want to monetize and profitize our schools. Just like two businesses vying for your dollars, schools are now forced into the same scenario. Instead of spending these precious dollars on educating kids, they are forced to have huge marketing budgets to advertise their schools to draw in more students.
Clearly the EAA feels it’s okay to also use deception and obfuscation in this effort.
It’s disgusting and it must end.
UPDATE: Note that there are now four school districts confirmed for having received this letter:
— Karen Twomey (@ktwomeyMEd) August 31, 2014
One of the questions I have is how the EAA gained access to the addresses of children outside of their district and even outside of Detroit.
Also Bruce Channell reports in the comments of this post that he received the letter even though he doesn’t have children in school at all!. Jeremy Moss on Twitter reports the same:
— Jeremy Moss (@JeremyAllenMoss) August 31, 2014
UPDATE 2: We now have a list of school districts from whom the EAA, the state’s “School District for Misfit Schools” is attempting to poach students:
- Detroit Public Schools
- Ferndale Public Schools
- Southfield Public Schools
- Grosse Pointe Public Schools
- Hazel Park Public Schools
- Van Dyke Public Schools
- Pleasant Ridge Public Schools
I’ll continue to update as I get more information.
UPDATE 3: The EAA has now apologized. Details can be found HERE.