The Education Achievement Authority is a hot topic for Michigan’s public school system, and Eastern Michigan University became a key player in the debate when it signed a partnership with the government program in 2011. The controversy has directly affected some students hoping to get a degree from EMU’s College of Education.
The EAA is an 11-member system governing board for the Education Achievement System whose purpose is to assume operation of public schools in Michigan performing in the bottom 5 percent.
It is a statewide school system implemented in 2011 by Gov. Rick Snyder.
“EAA is a charter school district set up by the state of Michigan. It’s basically the education branch of the emergency financial manager,” EMU master’s degree student Phil Patterson said.
According to EMU’s EAA webpage, the university provided two of the 11 EAA members. Two more were appointed by the Detroit Public School System and finally, seven were appointed by Gov. Snyder.
College of Education Dean Jann Joseph resigned from her position on the EAA board on Nov. 30, 2013. The Board of Regents voted for Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic and
Student Affairs Kim Schatzel to replace Joseph on Dec. 10, 2013.
Patterson, who is studying social foundation of education, is a member of the student organization
Students for an Ethical Participatory Education. The group is not pleased with EMU’s alliance with the government schooling program.
“All of the schools in Washtenaw County are boycotting student teachers from EMU because of EMU’s relationship with the EAA,” Patterson said.
Other members of the College of Education community are not pleased with the university’s association with the EAA and the consequences for EMU’s student teachers.
Rebecca Martusewicz has taught at EMU for 25 years. She instructs social foundation of education and eco-justice classes. She said the backlash against EMU’s alliance with the EAA has made life difficult for education students seeking student teaching positions in the area.
“The Washtenaw County Teachers Association is boycotting student teachers from EMU, because it’s the only leverage they have to try to stop this,” Martusewicz said.
She also said the contract was not discussed with the EMU faculty.
“It’s an agreement that came into existence without any input or knowledge from the department of education,” Martusewicz said. “We learned about this during a press conference.”
EMU junior and early childhood education major Kristie Good echoed these sentiments, and said she believes the EAA is not doing the university any favors.
“It shows EMU’s lack of support in Michigan public schools and also has directly affected students attempting to student teach in Ann Arbor public schools,” Good said. “As an education student at
EMU, I’m disappointed in the partnership Eastern has with the EAA.”
Good said the boycotting of EMU student teachers in Washtenaw County is common knowledge among her classmates, and she believes the issue runs deeper than assigning an outsider to intervene at schools with poor performance.
“The EAA is taking away basic democracy in Michigan’s state government,” Good said.
Ashley Attar, SEPE member and EMU senior studying international affairs, said the EAA needed a university to sign a contract in order to officially have the ability to expropriate schools.
“The EAA needs an official school’s stamp of approval, one that has the ability to charter schools. EMU has that ability,” she said.
According to the university’s EAA webpage, EMU was selected for the partnership because it is one of the country’s largest producers of educational personnel and “the university has long been recognized for its groundbreaking programs. EMU, formerly named Michigan State Normal College, was the first teacher-training school in the nation to offer a four-year degree program, and the first to offer a special education program for future teachers.”
One of Attar’s main concerns with the EAA’s operation is the inability for local input.
“There is no longer local control of the school. It totally removes community involvement,” Attar said. “If the government decides a school is failing, they stop being public schools. They are pretty much run by a private management company.”
A contract called the “Interlocal Agreement Between the Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University and the School District for the City of Detroit Creating the Education Achievement
Authority” discussed the terms set up by EMU’s board of regents and the school district for the City of Detroit. The document primarily discussed the role of the EAA.
The contract states the intentions are “to provide innovative, flexible, transparent, safe, efficient and effective public education services throughout the state.” It also says the government has the power of “controlling and operating public elementary and secondary schools.”
EMU issued a press release in the summer of 2011 explaining their positive stance with the EAA.
“We are excited and proud to collaborate in this partnership,” said Roy Wilbanks, chair of the EMU Board of Regents at the time. “We are delighted to be involved and help play a leadership role in the education of Michigan’s children.”
EMU President Susan Martin signed the contract on June 23, 2011, and said EMU is a logical partner for Detroit’s public schools.
“Ensuring a solid future for Michigan’s young people is central to Eastern’s mission,” Martin said.
“We have always had an active interest in Detroit. We are well-grounded there.”
Members of SEPE met Tuesday, Feb. 4, with EMU directors including President Susan Martin, Vice President of Communications Walter Kraft, Vice President of Government and Community Relations Leigh Greden and Provost Schatzel. SEPE discussed the university’s involvement with the EAA, and the group previously delivered a formal request to President Martin’s office regarding EMU nullifying the contract with the EAA.
Hannah Price is technically a freshman, but took classes at EMU during her high school career. She is hoping to study dietetics, and said the EAA may not be the best choice to assist failing public schools.
“This is the first I’ve heard about it, but it doesn’t seem like it would be very helpful to students,” Price said. “How does the government know how a school should be run?”
In light of the way the university’s affiliation with the EAA has been detrimental to students in the College of Education, Martusewicz said she is disappointed EMU still has not cut ties with the program.
“It undermines a long-standing legacy at EMU as a leader of public education,” she said. “To me, it’s an attack on public education.”
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