Possible EAA expansion concerns local superintendents

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 17, 2012

While the passage of right-to-work legislation had thousands of people in an uproar last week, there are two other bills on the table right now making local educators nervous.

Several Macomb County superintendents mailed letters to parents and also shared information at school board meetings regarding House Bill No. 6004 and Senate Bill No. 1358. The administrators traveled to Lansing Dec. 5 to meet with legislators and discuss their concerns about the proposals.

The educators said that, if passed, the bills would dramatically alter Michigan’s public education system and would create an Education Achievement Authority/Chancellor that would exceed its single purpose.

The EAA, which Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts unveiled in June, is a statewide school system designed to assume operation of the state’s lowest 5 percent of schools not achieving satisfactory results on a redesign plan or under an emergency manager. The system’s initial operation is occurring in DPS for the 2012-13 school year.

The way House Bill No. 6004 and Senate Bill No. 1358 read, many educators are concerned that, if they pass, the proposals would give the EAA too much authority over public education.

“The scary part for most schools, it just really oversteps what was the original intent of the EAA,” Fraser Public Schools Superintendent David Richards said. “The new legislation wants to expand that and allow the EAA and the chancellor to oversee schools on a statewide basis.”

“They’re sister bills of each other. We are going to talk to our legislators and make sure they understand what the community is saying,” said Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Eve Kaltz.

“It’s to try to help them understand how significant this language is,” Richards said. “It’s a major overreach in legislation, in regards to expanding the EAA. This is a major overstepping of local control. It also gives a tremendous amount of authority to a chancellor who can step in any schools across the state of Michigan. It’s a major overhaul, and that’s a concern.”

Phone messages left at the governor’s office for comment about the superintendents’ concerns were not returned.

“There is no data this has proven advantageous for students,” Kaltz said. She believes, if the bills pass, the EAA would have “no oversight from the Michigan Department of Education.”

The bills “remove any oversight of the EAA from the state superintendent of schools and the elected state Board of Education,” Richards said.

According to a Michigan Association of School Administrators policy brief, if the bills are voted into law, the new legislation would allow the EAA to operate as a statewide school district.

“EAA can create, authorize and operate new forms of schools and charter schools in school districts not in the bottom 5 percent across the state,” the policy brief stated.

Fitzgerald Public Schools Superintendent Barbara VanSweden is also watching the bills very closely.

“I am concerned about the direction it is taking,” VanSweden said. “Once a school falls into the reform district, there is no way out. We don’t know what measures the new EAA would have with MEAP or MME. There is no local voice in how this EAA is going to perform. There is no elected board.”