Saturday, April 13, 2013

Informational Update email from March 21, 2013

What's Going On
HB4639, the EAA bill, passed the Michigan House of Representatives last night by a vote of 57-53.  The EAA (Educational Achievement Authority) is not now written into state law, but is only an interlocal agreement with Eastern Michigan University which allows the state to operate 15 schools in Detroit.  Under HB4639, the EAA would expand to 50 schools, and the EAA would be able to take over any school in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, regardless of geographic location. The bill was passed along a party line vote, with three Republicans voting against the bill (Peter Pettalia, Ben Glardon, and Jon Bumstead).
Last minute amendments softened the impact of the bill.  Republican Ken Goike's amendment to give schools the chance to have their intermediate school districts intervene in place of the EAA was adopted.  Also, Republican Joel Johnson's amendment to allow public school employees in schools taken over by the EAA to continue to be members of the Michigan Public Schools Employees Retirement System was adopted. 
At the same time the House was passing HB4639 parents and educators from Stockbridge, Waverly, Dewitt, Grand Ledge, Bath, Lansing, Ingham ISD, Charlotte, Okemos, Maple Valley, Owosso, and more were meeting to discuss grassroots organizing to support public schools.  State Senator Rick Jones was in attendance and spoke briefly at the conclusion of the presentation.  He expressed support for the EAA as it exists today, but said that he does not support expansion of the EAA statewide.  He opined that it would not pass the Senate. 
What We Are Doing
Okemos parent Brett DeGroff met with about a dozen parents at Central Montessori this week.  A brief presentation included school funding basics, an overview of the EAA, and a discussion of the impact of "unbundling" school funding.  Nine Central parents signed up to receive informational updates.  Welcome!
Okemos parent Angela Wilson is organizing a Community Forum with State School Board President John Austin. This will be an opportunity to express your thoughts and ask questions of the panelists about the future of public education in Michigan. Stay tuned for more information.
What Other Parents Are Doing
East Grand Rapids parent advocate Elizabeth Welch Lykins wrote an op-ed which appeared in the Grand Rapids Press and on  In the piece, Lykins raises questions about accountability and transparency with the EAA. 
Read the piece here:
What More Can We Do?
As always, we want to get information to you, and facilitate you in speaking together to protect Okemos Public Schools and public schools across the state.  Please email us with questions about what is going on.  We will respond directly and also discuss the topic in an informational update.  Please let us know if you want to be involved, and how you want to be involved.  If you want to help but aren't sure what you can contribute, we have ideas. 
Other Education Stories
While there is no data to support the EAA model, there is data about the effect of The Kalamazoo Promise on Kalamazoo Public Schools.  "Starting with the Class of 2006, 91 percent of Promise-eligible students -- including those from alternative education programs -- have enrolled in at least one semester of college, an astonishing statistic in a high-poverty, majority-minority school district."
Rep. Lisa Lyons, who gave us the EAA bill, recently introduced a bill which would exempt real estate property from the State Education Property Tax. That would remove something like $1.8 BILLION from the School Aid Fund. (It would mean that no one, homeowner or business, would pay the 6 mill SET on their real property.)
While traditional public schools are being criticized, and legislators are pushing for expansion of the EAA experiment, a model of investment in public school is showing proven results in Detroit in a short timeframe.

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