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Clinton Township, Macomb Township

December 5, 2012

Officials express concern over education authority bill

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education Member Denise Aquino went out on a partisan limb Nov. 19 to address a bill making its way through Lansing that she called “a slow takeover of public education.”

The bill in question would create the Education Achievement Authority, which would create a system of state oversight of low-performing schools.

“This, I think, is an expansion of government,” she said at the board meeting. “I thought the Republican Party — excuse me for naming a party in a nonpartisan type of setting — was in favor of small government, but this is expanding government, in my opinion.”

But at least one lawmaker, state Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray, agrees with her. Goike, who represents the district in which CVS resides, said he also is opposed to the bill as it is currently written.

The bill is based on the Education Achievement System that has operated in Detroit since the beginning of this school year. The system created a new district for the city’s lowest-performing 15 schools. A chancellor oversees the district and leaves the authority of hiring teachers to each school’s principal, according to the EAS website. The individual schools would stay under EAS control until the students “show marked progress.”

The proposed bill would make a special, centralized district of the entire state’s bottom 5-percent schools. Goike said he is in support of poorly performing schools receiving some sort of special attention, but he thinks the bill may be going too far.

Board members warned at the meeting that there is language in the bill allowing the EAS to scoop up schools outside the bottom 5 percent.

“That was the scariest part for me,” said Board Member Frank Bednard. “You didn’t even have to be in the bottom 5 percent. There was no mechanism or description on how they’d pick the school.”

Goike said last week there was language within the bill’s draft that concerned him, particularly when it comes to removing local control from the schools.

“That’s one of the things that I am opposed to,” Goike said of the centralized school district. “That’s why a lot of things are being changed on it right now, as we speak.”

Goike is pushing his Republican colleagues to change some of the language in the bill.

“There’s been a lot of bad legislation in the past two years,” Aquino said at the board meeting. “But this probably is the worst.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.