Legislature poised to jam through bills to create statewide takeover district

Legislation that would eliminate a local community's ability to guide education policy by creating a statewide "takeover district" appears to be headed for quick action in the Legislature after the Thanksgiving holiday.

House Bills 5923 and 6004 expand the authority of the interlocal agreement between Detroit Public Schools and Eastern Michigan University that created the Education Achievement Authority, a virtual school district. The legislation would expand the EAA's current reach from Detroit to the entire state, allowing Lansing bureaucrats to assume many of responsibilities currently entrusted to local school board members, parents and educators.

This statewide takeover district would oversee schools deemed by arbitrary and flawed ratings to be in the bottom 5 percent. Creating a cold, impersonal statewide school district would eliminate time-honored "neighborhood schools," further eroding the public school system.

Proponents of the legislation tout the Detroit EAA's alleged effectiveness, despite the fact that it has only been in place since the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. The Detroit EAA has not existed long enough to be ripe for fair evaluation, much less statewide implementation.

House Bills 5923 and 6004 represent a drastic change in how we fund education, as it would create a voucher system that inhibits school districts from properly managing resources for students of their local communities. This new voucher system would be much more extensive than any other that's been previously proposed.

Moreover, the legislation does not provide any control to establish standards, create missions and goals, monitor performance, or audit finances of these new schools.

Finally, the legislation should also be of concern to local taxpayers, because it would allow a new state authority to confiscate local school buildings that have already been paid for by local tax dollars.

Despite its myriad flaws, the legislation could be taken up in the final three weeks of the 96th Legislature. Lawmakers got a jump on the action Tuesday by holding a House Education Committee hearing on the legislation.