The original intent of the EAA was to allow the Michigan Department of Education through its State School Reform Officer to take control of schools that had been on the persistently low achieving schools list for three straight years. The persistently low achieving schools are those schools that are ranked in the bottom 5% of all schools in Michigan based on the Top-to-Bottom rankings. These persistently low achieving schools had demonstrated that they needed a change in focus because what they were doing was obviously not working.
While some of us considered this an intrusion into the responsibility of local school districts it was hard not to argue that something new needed to be done. These schools that were designated were failing and had shown no ability to move ahead.
So although many of us were not sure this was the best remedy we could support it because it was under the control of the State Department of Education.
But now these new bills expand the EAA to operate "new forms" of schools outside the "persistently low achieving" school category. It would create a de facto state school district controlled by a person appointed by the governor and not by the State Superintendent of Instruction.
Additionally, this legislation would allow the state to take control of local school buildings that were paid for by local tax dollars. The legislation would require that all school districts notify the Michigan Department of Education if a school building is closed, unused, or unoccupied. The MDE would compile a list of unused school buildings. The local district could not dispose of the building for four years and would have to maintain the building at a "classroom ready" status.
The EAA would be able to allow an eligible school (EAA or charter) to occupy the unused building and the local school district would be required to sell or lease the school building to the eligible school for fair market value. Who would occupy the building? Probably a for-profit educational company!
Another sticking point is that the EAA would be given additional flexibility by providing an exemption from statewide testing requirements and excused from some certified teacher requirements.
Read the House and the Senate bills. There is much more in them that will make you wonder about the Governor's and certain legislator's commitment to public education.
These bills, which the Governor supports, give me the impression that the Governor is willing to undermine local school districts. The question is why?
The Governor talks about "best practice" but there is nothing in these bills that has been tried at this scale anywhere in the United States. He and the legislators that support these bills cannot point to an example of how this will improve education in Michigan.
I would agree that in certain schools something new needs to be done. I would even agree that more can be done in every district. But what is proposed in these two bills goes way beyond any rational remedy.
What is proposed in HB 6004 and SB 1358 is outrageous!
Public education in Michigan is successful. Can we do more? Certainly!
But these proposals are not the answer. They point to a different agenda. They point to politicians who want public money to go to private hands and private companies.
These bills are not the answer and the citizens of Michigan need to let their State Representatives and State Senators know of their opposition to these bills.