Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA) was created as an independent school district, and launched in time for the 2012-2013 school year. Its purpose: To take over and direct the state’s lowest-performing five percent of schools.
Although the EAA states that it’s working in 12 out of 15 schools it oversees in Detroit, the Michigan Department of Education announced that it wants a “divorce” from the fledgling EAA. The MDOE will terminate its exclusive contract with the EAA in February 2015.
Enter House Bill 4369 – Education Achievement Authority Expansion
In spite of the contract termination, last week the Michigan House approved HB4369, which expands the reach and ability of the EAA to take over poorly performing schools. The legislation allows the authority to expand to a maximum of 50 schools, including the 15 it already operates.
The termination of the contract also opens the door for other entities to participate in running low-performance schools.
Democrats and Republicans at Odds
If a school board asks, the bill would enable county intermediate school districts to manage low-performing schools instead of the state reform district. Republicans argue that local interventions are better than state takeovers.
The majority of Democrats are opposed to both EAA, and the expansion bill.
Ironically, it was former Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, who signed into law the original 2009 legislation allowing for the bottom five percent of schools to be placed into a state school reform district. Even the Obama administration got behind the EAA. U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, declared it “the future,” and the “right type of work.”
My representative in the Upper Peninsula, Scott Dianda (D), insists the expansion of the EAA will empower corporations to take over schools. He fears that for-profit charter schools will sweep in and merge the smaller schools, essentially wiping them out.
If HB 4369 Passes
If the Senate votes to pass the bill, the EAA will have an opportunity beyond its teeth-cutting stage to prove that it can work more effectively, both in Detroit and across the state. It’s short-sighted to pronounce the plan a failure before it’s even two years old. However, because EAA is so new, it’s impossible to gauge how successful an expansion would be at this time.
It’s difficult to criticize the founders of the EAA for trying new solutions. The worst school districts have failed the students for decades.
Maybe it’s past time for a little pioneering into unchartered territory in an effort to provide quality education for all Michigan students.