Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What the #@$%^ Is Going On In Lansing?

The Michigan EAA Bill (HB 4369) is likely to be voted on Thursday for its third reading.

According to Michigan Parents for Schools:

Well, it's back. Last Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Lisa Lyons introduced the new version of the "EAA bill" - that is, a bill which would make the Educational Achievement Authority a permanent state school district and expand its authority greatly. Rep. Lyons (R-Alto), who also chairs the House Education committee, then scheduled hearings on the bill (HB 4369) for the following day. As a result, those of us who hoped to speak up about the bill had less than 24 hours to read the 60 page document and draft our reactions.

It was quickly voted out of committee.

Again, from Michigan Parents for Schools:
Dear Friends,

These are strange times. Many lawmakers insist on seeing the world as a set of simple, black and white, problems. The answers are clear, and those who know the right thing to do should brook no opposition. If you disagree with me, you simply cannot have anything of value to say. And there is never, ever, any reason for me to consider the possibility that I might be wrong.

Last Wednesday afternoon, we saw some incredible examples of this kind of thinking as the House Education Committee took final testimony and then voted on the EAA expansion bill (HB 4369). Citizens, educators, experts and even other legislators who spoke in opposition to the bill were treated by some committee members with what can only be called contempt. . .

If you want to see what I mean, check out some of the hearing videos that MIPFS is making available to the public - in particular those from this past Wednesday. 
 Video links: (March 6th) (March 13th)

Pay special attention to the question and answer period after the testimony, if there were any questions at all. See what the dialog on this issue is like...

What's still wrong with the bill?

  • Everyone admits that what the EAA is trying to do inside its schools is a kind of experiment. They are using untried techniques and strategies heavily based on technology. Will it work? Who knows? But the bill makes the EAA a statewide authority before we have even seen one year's worth of evidence that what they do is working. And once they get the go-ahead, the EAA never has to prove to anyone that their system works.
  • The whole system depends on sweeping in and taking over an individual school, tossing out all the people who work there. This kind of "restructuring" has a lousy record in the rest of the country. Instead, we could provide leadership and support to districts and schools, helping them make long-term changes and getting buy-in from students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community. Most successful school turnarounds have used this kind of strategy instead. Why doesn't Michigan?
  • Finally, there's a lot of stuff in the bill that has absolutely nothing to do with helping struggling schools. Recall that the original version of this bill was linked to other proposals to permit storefront, selective admission, and other questionable types of charter schools and to dismantle funding for community governed public schools. Those proposals haven't gone away, and you can still see their footprints in the current EAA bill.

    For example: why does the bill explicitly allow school districts to hand over the running of their schools to some other body, including the EAA? Why does the EAA need to be able to create new charter schools in districts run by emergency managers? Why does the EAA need authority to create a new charter school in a 2-mile radius of a struggling school they are supposed to be helping? How do these things help kids who are struggling? The answer is that these provisions are really designed to position the EAA to chip away at all local, community governed schools.

And that's the point. While I am sure that many of our lawmakers have the best of intentions, the EAA isn't really designed to help struggling schools and districts turn around. It's designed to slowly dismantle our local public schools under cover of "helping the kids." It's designed to be a place where schools from local districts go and never return. (The EAA Chancellor himself said that EAA schools which "graduate" might simply "go off on their own." What does that mean?) It's designed to break the bonds between school and community.

The EAA is designed, in short, to help take education out of the hands of local communities. As parents, apparently we know what's best for our children until we step into the voting booth. We will become consumers, rather than owners, choosing from among options others are pleased to offer, hoping to find a place for our children. Our communities, who have built and nurtured our public schools for generations, will have no choices at all.

According to Save Michigan's Public Schools, in today's debate on the floor, common sense amendments were voted down. For instance:
Rep. Lipton proposed two amendments, including one that would give the EAA expansion a five-year sunset. This would require an evaluation of the EAA system before it could be continued after five years. Republicans refuse to adopt it.

Rep. Brinks' amendment would put the EAA under the authority of the elected state Board of Education. Republicans refuse to adopt it. Brinks also proposed the EAA be subject to the Freedom of Information Act - that too has been voted down. WHY?!

That's the bad news. So please--contact your representatives! And not just your representatives, but all of them!

Michigan Parents for Schools action link

Now this next bit of news I find rather interesting (h/t to Jack Panitch)--I'm not sure this is so bad--I'm also not sure it is good--but the news item comes from Gongwer News Service: 
Committee Considers Repealing Common Core Standards
The bill (HB 4276*), introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), would rescind the State Board of Education's 2010 decision to adopt the Common Core, an initiative coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Those supporting the bill said Common Core does not give parents and teachers in the state enough input about the curriculum.
Emmett McGroarty also said the curriculum was largely pushed by the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation and two other private foundations that came up with the standards without input from parents or local teachers...
Mr. McMillin said if the state does not like a standard within the Common Core, it will not be able to get out of it...
Melanie Kurdys, a local schools advocate and former local school board member, said if the state were to repeal Common Core, it would then stick with the curriculum as it is now and create a committee with content experts, local teachers and parents, and come up with a state-led curriculum.
"So we remain in the control of our destiny," said Ms. Kurdys, an unsuccessful Republican candidate in 2012 for the State Board of Education.


  1. According to, the EAA bill has passed the House and now heads to the Senate. Read more here

  2. Also--according to the MLive article, "Three Republicans – Jon Bumstead of Newaygo, , Ben Glardon of Owosso and Peter Pettalia of Presque Isle – joined Democrats in voting ‘no.” Rep. John Olumba, I-Detroit, joined Republicans in voting “yes.”"

    Please join me in thanking the Republicans who voted no.