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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Education Achievement Authority bill resurfaces

Six LSD schools could fall under the EAA authority

by Sam Inglot
Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto

Wednesday, March 6 — The Lansing School District could lose control of six schools under proposed legislation that targets persistently low performing buildings in the state.

The legislation, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, would put the state’s Education Achievement Authority into state law, which would expand the program beyond the 15 Detroit public schools already under its control. Schools would enter the EAA after being in the bottom 5 percent of lowest-performing schools after three consecutive years — often called “priority schools.”

State records from 2011-2012 show six LSD schools in that category: Everett High School, Eastern High School, J.W. Sexton High School, Pattengill Middle School, Gardner Middle School and Riddle Elementary School.

Opponents and skeptics of the program say the EAA is an unproven system.

“I certainly don’t support it,” President of the Lansing Board of Education Guillermo Lopez said. “There’s no evidence that they are successful. They just started that program. To try and take over a wider area in Michigan is just ludicrous.”

“Part of the overarching issue is that it’s still a school district that has been in existence for eight'months,” said Don Wotruba, director of the Michigan Association of School Boards. He said schools should be given time to run with their own improvement plans before the state jumps on them with the unproven EAA. He said the MASB is opposed to an EAA-only plan for helping the state’s struggling schools.

Meanwhile, there are six LSD buildings that could fall under the authority of the EAA if the legislation passes and there is no sign of improvement. Lopez doesn’t think that will be a problem. He said the district’s reconfiguration — which involves closing several school buildings and moving seventh and eighth graders in the high schools — last year was meant to improve achievement.

“A large reason for doing the reconfiguration was because it would be a better way to instruct students and work on achievement,” he said. “To that extent, I think there was some improvement on the last MEAP scores.”

Wotruba said under the legislation the EAA would control all of the instruction, employment contracts and funding at a building under its control.

“Collective bargaining agreements cease to exist for that building and everything is new,” he said.

Lyons introduced similar legislation last year that made it out of the committee but was never voted on. The new bill includes changes like capping the EAA to 50 schools.

"Last year we began the discussion on codifying the EAA into law but didn't have time to finish the process," Lyons said in a statement. "With the introduction of this legislation, we are picking up where we left off last year.' We worked with many different stakeholders to address concerns and improve the legislation. As a result, we have a bill that helps kids trapped in failing schools."

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