The Education Achievement Authority would become a freestanding school district and be authorized to operate up to 50 academically troubled schools across the state under a newly amended bill that surfaced in the House this week.
The bill would establish the EAA as the state reform district and cap the number of troubled schools that can be placed under the authority at 27 through June, 39 through June 2015 and 50 after that.
While the bill also would prevent any schools from being ordered into the EAA until 2015, it says schools may voluntarily be placed in the system by their own local districts. It also says the EAA would have the authority to charter schools anywhere in the state.
The legislation calls for the state’s school reform officer to place the “highest priority” on unsatisfactory academic results at K-8 schools.
The EAA is in its second school year running 15 Detroit schools with persistently low academic achievement.
No House vote has been scheduled as opposition to Gov. Rick Snyder’s school reform project reignited Wednesday in the Capitol.
“The campaign against this bill is clearly well organized but as misinformed as always,” Ari Adler, spokesman for House Republicans, said in an email. “We haven’t voted because people need time to review the new version of the bill.”
School groups and Democratic lawmakers have mounted an aggressive campaign against several different forms of the legislation over the past 15 monthsas theEAA has been dogged by questions about its curriculum, teacher turnover rate, declining enrollment and long-term financial viability.
“This bill is dangerous legislation that allows for the state takeover of public schools deemed to be in the bottom 5 percent statewide based on standardized testing,” the American Federation of Teachers said in a message to members Wednesday urging opposition to the bill.
Adler said the bill exempts Center Programs students from all EAA rules and regulations. Center Programs provide special education learning and services to pupils residing in more than one school district.
“(Intermediate school districts) can still be an option for failing schools, but will not be granted first right of refusal,” he said.
Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, said he has been vehemently opposed to the EAA expansion since the legislation was introduced in November 2012.
“I stand more certain now than ever that the authority is inept at educating or even safeguarding its own students, let alone capable of expanding statewide,” Hopgood said. “Since opening their doors a year ago, the EAA’s enrollment declined by nearly 25 percent, over 1,700 students left after the first year.”
Legislation expanding the EAA’s ability to take over failing schools stalled in the House in December
House members in both parties said at the time they opposed the Senate’s sweeping changes to the bill, in particular the elimination of a 50-school cap on the number of buildings that could be placed under the EAA’s control.
Snyder on Wednesday defended the EAA’s track record after speaking at a Michigan Farm Bureau event in Lansing.
“If you talk to teachers and students in these schools, you’ll see there’s real learning going on,” Snyder told reporters. “And these were schools that had a terrible track record for learning. It’s dramatically improved.”
The House has sought to restrict the EAA’s size and allow county intermediate school districts the option of taking over schools that are in the bottom 5 percent of academic achievement for three or more years.
Snyder’s office created the EAA in 2011 through an interlocal agreement between Detroit Public Schools and Eastern Michigan University as an entity to serve as the state’s school reform district, which critics say never materialized from a 2009 education reform law.
The state’s school reform/redesign office, established by the 2009 law, entered into a 15-year contract with the EAA to transfer its responsibilities to oversee failing schools.