Lawmakers demand Snyder put brakes on EAA expansion

State lawmakers are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to step away from his plan to expand the Education Achievement Authority, following a series of startling revelations about the corporate-backed school district.

“We support efforts to increase education achievement in troubled schools,” read a letter sent to Snyder this week by Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, and Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. “But those efforts should be driven in an open discussion of how to bring to our state proven, data-tested programs.”

Currently a pilot program in Detroit, House Bill 4369 would allow the EAA to take over up to 50 schools that are deemed by arbitrary and flawed rankings to be in the state’s bottom 5 percent — without so much as conducting an educational audit to determine the specific problems facing the schools in question. School employees transferred to an EAA school would lose all of their collective bargaining rights.

The legislation, which narrowly passed the state House in March and is now before the state Senate, would also allow the EAA to create new charter schools within two miles of a so-called “failing” school.

Even though it’s only been active since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, the EAA has run into a host of problems:

  • First, EAA leaders asked for a $2 million state bailout after just a few months in operation, due to a shortage in private contributions.
  • Then, EAA administrators secretly raided $6 million from students in the struggling Detroit Public Schools to help prop up the takeover district.
  • Finally, it was revealed that EAA officials lied on a federal grant application to secure $35.4 million in federal funds, claiming that the EAA was an IRS-authorized charitable organization and had the authority to take over 60 schools in Michigan. Neither claim is true.

“Our students deserve better than to be treated as lab experiments by wealthy individuals and politicians,” Johnson, Hopgood, Lipton and Dillon wrote in their letter to Snyder. “The public deserves better than to have huge policy changes cooked up behind closed doors, bullied through the legislature, and then have a half-baked policy fumbled through chaotic implementation. Please drop your efforts to expand the EAA and instead focus your efforts on crafting bipartisan solutions that are actually proven to work for all children.”