Emergency Manager Law

Michigan Lawmakers Offer Opposing Opinions on EAA

Michigan Lawmakers Offer Opposing Opinions on EAA

Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons recently editorialized on her qualifications for the position as the chair of the House Education Committee. The 32 year old farmer’s daughter didn’t cite her scant real estate background, nor her degree in agriculture, or even the closest she’s come to “leadership” in public education — her position as point guard on her high school basketball team.

Nope, the one shining skill Lyons boasted she brings to the job is her ability to successfully breed. Lyons postulated that as a mother of four children she has “a great interest in public education and an immense passion for the kids in our schools”. No doubt, she is a fine and loving parent, and most certainly cares deeply about all aspects of her offspring’s well-being — like, say, their dental health, but parental devotion alone does not imbue her with any special insights into orthodontia — nor does it to education policy.

Democracy Tree lauds her ability to replicate — but, not so much her knowledge of public education.

Take her pet project, the Education Achievement Authority, which is little more than a naked power-grab of the poorest performing schools in the state, which by-and-large will continue to be from Detroit Public Schools — a district that has fared poorly under ongoing emergency management with no end in sight. The EAA was the brainchild of the current DPS Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts. The scheme was sold to lawmakers as a compassionate helping-hand for those under-achieving schools. It is not lost on critics of the plan that this is a way to enhance the DPS measured performance, simply by cutting its “dead weight”. These schools are taken-over by force, by an unelected, state-appointed chancellor, who enjoys authority similar to an Emergency Manager, and in spite of Lyons’ mewing protestations that this is not a privatization scheme, claiming the schools will still technically be run by the state, the Chancellor has sweeping powers to privatize each school by component — teachers, staff, food service, transportation, and online learning. It’s like that old joke: here’s the axe that was used to chop down the cherry tree,…of course the handle had to be replaced,…and so did the head…but, intrinsically speaking, it occupies the same space.

The EAA is not yet codified into law, although the Michigan House passed its new 2013 version (HB 4369) last month. Currently there are 15 schools from DPS which have been under the pro tem authority of Chancellor John Covington.  He is discovering that funding issues are at the core of the problems these schools face, and has been begging for money in excess of what the state would allow for comparable schools.

Lyons concluded her defense of the EAA with a declaration of its (relative) success:

“Opponents say that since the EAA has only been operational since September, there isn’t enough data to prove its success and that we should wait. The facts are clear: student attendance and parental involvement have increased dramatically under the EAA.”

Well, actually Lisa, there is some data — but you failed to mention it. The MEAP database for the Education Achievement System – EAS, (the proper name of the “school district”) is scandalous. Sure, it’s early in the process, but it’s certainly not showing even a tiny bit of improvement. Their proficiency levels are as follows:

  • 3rd Grade proficiency in math is o.9 %, and reading 15.5 %
  • 4th Grade math is 2.1%, reading 11.8%, and writing 4.9%
  • 5th Grade math is 5.6%, reading 27.1%, and science 0%
  • 6th Grade math is 0.3%, reading 23.3%, and social studies 0.3%
  • 7th Grade math is 4.3%, reading 17.9%, and writing 7.5%
  • 8th Grade math is 0.5%, reading 21.6%, and science 0%
  • 9th Grade social studies 0.7%

Senator Bert Johnson, who represents the Detroit area, also recently penned an editorial on the EAA. It’s clear he doesn’t want Lyons calling the plays in his district. Unlike the Lyon’s piece, Johnson provides thoughtful content, with four pages of facts and figures. Here’s an excerpt:

“Because several EAA schools are in my district — and all of them are in my hometown — I’ve visited them multiple times and not on sanctioned dog-and-pony shows set up through Gov. Snyder and his appointee, the EAA chancellor. Here’s a brief look at the day-to-day realities of the EAA:

• Rather than putting experienced teachers in these “under-performing schools,” roughly two-thirds are Teach for America students — who get five weeks of “teacher training” the summer before they are assigned, with no other certification required.

• At Pershing High School, a dozen TFA students walked off the job, and I have received reports of several who have broken down in staff meetings, unable to handle the rigors of teaching. In some cases, athletic department staff are teaching students.

• Reports of student abuse, including a child whose mouth was taped shut for being too talkative.

• Abuse of special needs students, including unilateral changes to Individualized Education Plans without input from parents, therapists and counselors. This is illegal.”

In the mean time, the Michigan Senate remains poised to pass their version of the EAA.

What do you think the chances are that Ms. Lyons would consider sending her four children to an EAA school? Not drinkin’ the water….is my guess.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

Michigan House Reintroduces Education Achievement Authority Bill

Michigan House Reintroduces Education Achievement Authority Bill

After failing to pass HB 6004 last year, Rep. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons is at it again sponsoring HB 4369.

The impetus behind the legislation is to codify into Michigan Compiled Law the no EAAEducation Achievement Authority. In addition to the state seizure of local control of financially struggling schools, it suspends collective bargaining in the bottom 5 percent of schools — an ugly provision reminiscent of the failed federal law, No Child Left Behind, in which schools that did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) were summarily punished regardless of important contributing factors.

Just as with the Emergency Manager law, a racial component emerges again…

The law was crafted to continually punish the bottom 5 percent, no matter how much progress they made, and history shows that the lowest performing schools tend to be located in poor urban areas. HB 4369, like its Emergency Manager parent, facially-speaking, did not have a racial component, but in practice — well, that’s another matter.

It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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U.S. Department of Education Checks-up on Michigan Public Schools

images[2]The Detroit Public Schools are being paid a visit today by Tony Miller, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. Department spokesperson Daren Briscoe told The Detroit News that the purpose of the visit is:

“…to assess the status of reform efforts to improve outcomes for Detroit’s public school students and to determine how ED can best provide continued support and technical assistance across a broad range of reform and management areas. He will meet with the leadership of the Detroit Public schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and the Michigan Department of Education.”

How nice…almost sounds like they’re coming for tea.

The Michigan powers-that-be must sense that their lawbreaking days are coming to an end.

And their crimes are many:

Detroit schools have been operating under Emergency Management since 2009, and under that authority have been decimated through cruel cut-back management schemes borrowed from the corporate world. Emergency Manager Roy Roberts, a former GM executive, further destroyed the district through his Education Achievement Authority plan in which he transferred the dead weight of the 15 lowest performing schools in DPS to a new state operated district. Last years’s legislation that paved the way for the wild proliferation of charter and cyber schools has further turned DPS into an educational ghost town.

Last August, on the same day Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager law, was suspended as the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the certification of the petitions putting the law to a referendum vote in November, state Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit to suspend seven elected DPS board members on a technicality. This week Wayne County Circuit Court threw-out the case as so much hogwash. DPS school board legal counsel chararacterized the harassment as “a bogus lawsuit by the AG from the beginning. It just showed contempt for Detroit”.

Speculation swirls whether the various complaints of civil rights violations committed under DPS Emergency Management will be discussed at today’s “helpful” meeting. Included among them are the closure of so very many schools that are primarily serving minority communities, the transfer of those 15 low performing schools to the EAA, and the suspension of 180 high school students who staged a walk-out in protest of the poor quality of education in DPS.

This federal scutiny comes at a pivotal moment for the EAA. Certain lawmakers have been pushing hard for legislation that would codify the state-wide district into law so they may expand from 15 schools to 60 within five years — and obtain critical grant monies to keep afloat.

Federal government agencies rarely stick their noses in state operations, and when they do, the effort is typically flaccid at best. For two years the coalition that put together the petition drive to repeal the Emergency Manager law has been soliciting the assistance of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asking him to investigate violations of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. The petitioners have been met with…crickets.

Let’s hope today’s meeting is a productive one.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree
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Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority — NOT Fiscally Responsible

How Michigan’s EAA Chancellor Covington can’t stay on budget:

The double-standard imposed on Detroit Public Schools by the Snyder Administration is the height of hypocrisy.

DPS was taken-over by an Emergency Manager with the claim that their $500 million dollar long-term debt was the result of fiscal irresponsibility of the elected school board and administration. The rationale was that bringing in a strong business leader to shore-up the balance sheet was just the remedy for years of supposed poor leadership. Starting with Robert Bobb in 2009, and now under former GM executive, Roy Roberts, Detroit students daily suffer the consequences of their misguided corporate tactics.

Under their leadership, the district has been subjected to brutal cut-back management practices typically found in the private sector for the purpose of “turning-around” a troubled company — which is code for: parting-it out like an old Buick. First cannibalized by the fire-sale of school assets, and more recently balkanized through the establishment of the Education Achievement Authority under Roberts, Detroit schools continue in a fiscal death spiral with little hope in sight. This new separate district, the EAA, was set-up to better “serve” the unique needs of under-achieving schools in DPS, with the intention of expanding the program statewide to capture the bottom 5 percent of academically stressed schools– along with their meager per pupil foundation grants.

Under Chancellor John Covington, the EAA currently runs 15 schools from DPS, but is under pressure to rapidly expand that number to include 60 schools statewide . A lot of money rides on their ability to grow the EAA to become what is projected to be the largest school district in the state with approximately 46,000 students — under the leadership of one un-elected official using non-union, under-compensated staff, operating day-to-day with shaky job security at best.

What’s the rush? More →

Michigan Right to Work Law Was the Brainchild of ALEC, The Most Dangerous Group in Politics

From article written by Bob Sloan and published on Policy Mic...

Fact: 282 bills were passed in Michigan during the lame duck session. 42% of all the bills passed in the last two years were in this last lame duck session, with 180 votes taken on the last day of the 2012 session alone.

Fact: In the session from Dec 13 to Dec 14 (ending at 4:29AM), 180 roll-call votes were held. This took place in the 18 hours leading up to the ending of lame duck.

No sooner had the GOP secured total control of Michigan in 2010, holding majorities in both houses and winning the governorship, than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing ultra-conservative “bill mill” and THE source of money and corruption in politics today, lept into action. ALEC wasted no time in sending many of their most onerous “model legislation” bills to Michigan. These included the Emergency Manager law, , expansion of charter schools, HB 5221 (Voter ID Act), which required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and HB 4305 with language similar to ALEC’s model “Immigration Law Enforcement Act.” More →

Open Letter to Michigan Governor Snyder

Dear Mr. Snyder,

How dare you? I watched your press conference after the signing of Right to Work for Less legislation the other day. How dare you stand before the cameras and tell such bold faced lies? How dare you claim to be a friend of labor unions? How dare you claim to be pro-worker? How dare you claim that there has been ample discussion on the matter of RTWFL? Your GOP legislators are in the habit of deleting opposing posts on their Facebook pages and banning users who disagree with them. How is that ample discussion? Your GOP legislators frequently refused to see citizens during office hours to discuss RTWFL. How is that ample discussion? Your GOP legislators have had their staff hang up on people who were telephoning to voice their opinions on RTWFL legislation. How is that ample discussion? Your GOP legislators have had people removed bodily from Town Hall meetings for voicing an opposing opinion on RTWFL. How is that ample discussion? Your GOP legislators filled the gallery with members of their staff in order to keep citizens out of the chamber while they were voting on RTWFL. How is that ample discussion? That is not ample discussion – that is called “Cram it down our throats bullying” – and you are as guilty of that as your GOP legislators. That’s all on you – you own that.

Are you vying to be? Congratulations, because I believe you may have actually unseated John Engler for that title when you signed the Right for Work For Less More →

Michigan’s STAND UP FOR DEMOCRACY Urges Lawmakers to Respect the Will of the Voters

If you’ve turned on the news or picked-up a paper you’ll have seen protests on the streets of Cairo where angry mobs torched the offices of the Islamist Party over President Morsi’s decree granting himself omnipotent authority that can not be challenged by the courts.

Most Americans are outraged that this democratically elected leader has aborgated the democratic principles which swept him into office.

One must wonder what Michigan’s Governor Snyder thinks of Morsi’s power grab, as he himself is poised to foist his own decree in the form of a new Emergency Manager law on the people of that state in-spite of the fact that they just voted to repeal his previous dictator law.

Now is the time for Michigan voters to contact their lawmakers and demand they respect the will of the people. More →

Mich. Court of Appeals smacks down Snyder & Schuette, orders collective bargaining amendment onto ballot

Score one for the good guys

The Michigan Court of Appeals has once again ordered the Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers to halt their efforts to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters and directed them to place the Protect Working Families, formerly Protect Our Jobs, ballot initiative on the November ballot. The measure will ensure that collective bargaining rights are protected in our state constitution and prevent the wholesale destruction of those rights by extremist anti-labor majorities like we have in our state legislature today.

To read this important story, please click here