The new version of HB 4369 puts the state Superintendent in control of which schools end up being run by the state-operated authority for troubled schools as opposing to setting a 50-school limit the House agreed to this past spring.
None of Senate's new language alleviated concerns from Democrats, however, which didn't see much improvement in the codification of EAA, which is currently only operating in 15 Detroit schools as part of an inter-local agreement.
"Although I didn't think it was possible, you've actually succeeded in making this legislation worse," said Sen. Hoon-Yung HOPGOOD (D-Taylor) after seeing a series of his amendments fail.
After having sat in the Senate Education Committee for more than six months, the bill was discharged to the floor and passed, 20-18. Republican Sens. Judy EMMONS (R-Sherdian), Bruce CASWELL (R-Hillsdale), Rick JONES (R-Grand Ledge), Tory ROCCA (R-Sterling Heights), Tonya SCHUITMAKER (R-Lawton) and Mike NOFS (R-Battle Creek) joined Democrats in voting no.
Senate Education Committee Chair Phil PAVLOV (R-St. Clair) said today that the bill would help address the state's academically failing schools by giving the state Superintendent Mike FLANAGANpower to address these schools through the EAA management structure.
HB 4369 allows persistently low achieving schools to be operated by another public school or "reform/redesign district," rather than exclusively going with a private educational management organization. It puts a priority on K-8 schools and allows for cash-flow borrowing.
"There is no expansion of the EAA. The Superintendent cannot even make a recommendation to add schools to this list until January of 2015, no schools can go in until July of 2015," said Pavlov.
An amendment from Hopgood to increase transparency originally passed 27-11. It added provisions like subjecting the body to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), implementing annual financial audits, having a conflict of interest policy in place for board members and complies with state law regarding students with disabilities.
But the vote was reconsidered, recess was called, and then the item was temporarily passed on. On reconsideration, the amendment went down.
Caswell, Rocca and Sen. Goeff HANSEN (R-Hart) voted with the Democrats on the doomed amendment.
An amendment from Pavlov ended up addressing transparency, passing with 28 "aye" votes. It was different from the Hopgood amendment in that it didn't require contracts to be disclosed on the EAA's website, and left it up to the Department of Treasury to determine "if" the public body was subject to FOIA and the Open Meetings Act. Treasury was not named in Hopgood's version.
Hopgood offered a second amendment that would do away with the inter-local agreement, which he said lacked transparency. It went down 18-20.
He offered a third that would add a stipulation saying that the schools in the reform district could not have had declining enrollment. It went down 12-26 on party lines.
He offered a fourth saying no public school could go into a system operated by the EAA under the 2011 inter-local agreement. It went down 17-21.
Democratic Senators spoke at length in explaining their no-votes.
Sen. Coleman YOUNG Jr. (D-Detroit) echoed Hopgood's take that this was worse than what's already in place.
"This is nothing more than spilt, expired, stank nasty milk poured in a new glass," said Young.
Sen. Bert JOHNSON (D-Highland Park) spent around 45 minutes speaking against the EAA, recapping articles from various sources and talking about things like the for-profit education industry and the irony of Republican support from an ideological perspective.
Pavlov, who spoke after Johnson, said that "I think that I could have probably prepared 45 minutes' worth of comments… but I don't see a lot of value in that."
At a press conference this morning, Rep. Ellen Cogen LIPTON (D-Huntington Woods) said that the EAA had already proven it wasn't helping kids, citing declining enrollment.
"I describe it as sort of that leftover fish . . . just sort of the longer it languishes, it just keeps getting more and more rotten," said Lipton.
She said that the ideal solution was to throw this fish out, but "we're hearing that the Governor's office would like to add some spice and maybe some herbs to dress up the rotten fish."
EAA Chief Officer of Accountability, Equity and Innovation Mary ESSELMAN pointed to student gains on tests and defended the enrollment numbers, saying not all the kids were there on count day.
Flanagan Wants To Move More Schools Into EAA, May Not Be Able To
State Superintendent Mike FLANAGAN announced yesterday he wanted to move more than 10 schools into the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), but the Senate today passed legislation that would put a moratorium on new schools entering the State School Reform/Redesign District until July of 2015.
"What this is is a moratorium for approximately 18 months on any new schools moving into the EAA format," said Richardville.
MIRS asked if it were his understanding then that Flanagan wouldn't be able to put the schools he wants to into the system until after the moratorium.
"That's my understanding," said Richardville.
Flanagan released a statement this morning that called for legislation on the issue. The Race to the Top law of 2009 does not give the Department of Education the tools to address some of the mechanics involved in turning around the state's lowest performing schools, he said.
"Shame on anyone who insists on maintaining the status quo, to keep kids in this handful of failing schools where I wouldn't dare send my grandkids," he said.