EMU Regents to vote Tuesday on the future of Snyder’s EAA. Will they finally do the right thing?

EAA_LOGOAs you might recall, last year at about this time, the Republican political appointees who control Eastern Michigan University (EMU) chose to continue their sponsorship of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s controversial Education Achievement Authority (EAA) despite the urging of EMU President Susan Martin, the faculty, and the students they have sworn to serve. Saying that they’d like to see more before deciding on the future of the so-called “interlocal” agreement that makes the EAA possible, the Regents voted for a one-year extension on December 5, 2014. Well, that year-long reprieve ends tomorrow, and no one seems to know how the Regents will vote… “Will they vote to keep the EAA alive, in spite of the FBI investigation, and the fact that it’s keeping EMU students from careers in teaching, or will they continue to do the bidding of Rick Snyder, who appointed all but one of them?”

[If you’re unfamiliar with the EAA, and just why people are so adamantly against it, I’d suggest reading my 2014 interview with EMU Education Associate Professor Steven Camron, which goes into the history of this bold gambit to dismantle public education.]

I’d like to think that the Board of Regents has finally seen enough, with the recent report from EMU faculty demonstrating that student achievement is actually decreasing in schools taken over of by the EAA, and claims from insiders that Snyder’s goal has always been to “destroy public education in Michigan”, but, then again, I didn’t think that they’d vote to extend the arrangement last year, given the comments of EMU Regent Jim Stapleton a few months prior to the vote… Stapleton, as you may recall, told EMU faculty in a closed-door meeting that the Regents had been promised over steaks at Ann Arbor’s Chop House that, if they helped the Governor establish the EAA, that the university would see more in the way of State appropriations. This, of course, never happened, though… Here’s the relevant part of what Stapleton said to faculty. [Stapleton’s remarks were recorded by one of the attendees.]

…We thought this would be an enrollment play for us, because 68% of our students come from within 20 miles. We were told this was going to be a statewide school district, not just an urban school district, not just Detroit. So we thought that if we could have a presence… And fundraising dollars, foundation dollars that they promised us would be going through our foundation. And we thought, quite frankly, that since we were going to help the Governor with this, that we’d have some sort of benefit in terms of State appropriations. Well, guess what? None of those things happened…

But, just nine weeks after that was recorded, Regent Stapleton, along with five of his fellow Regents, voted to renew the relationship between EMU and the EAA. Apparently, even though the Governor had not made good on his promises to pay off EMU for giving him the ability to take over Detroit Public Schools and replace real teachers with inexpensive, script-reading Teach For America students, they felt as though they should give him another year.

As for what to expect tomorrow, who knows? I’d like to think that, were I in the shoes of EMU’s Regents, I’d be looking to distance myself from this whole shady mess, but, then again, I don’t know what it’s like to be a political appointee in a state the was just ranked by The Center for Public Integrity as the absolute worst in the entire nation when it comes to transparency and accountability. I suppose, in that environment, it might just be expected that you do what you’re told, even if it hurts the people of your state and the students at your institution.

Speaking of tomorrow’s vote, I just had the opportunity to speak with EMU College of Education Associate Professor Stephen Wellinski about his recently launched social media campaign to get Governor Snyder here in person for the festivities… Here’s Wellinski’s letter to Snyder, which does a great job of summing up where we find ourselves today, followed by audio of our conversation.

Dear Governor Snyder,

This Tuesday (December 8th) at 1:30, The Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University will be holding their last meeting of the 2015 calendar year. One agenda item of interest is the inter-local agreement that establishes your Educational Achievement Authority. As a professional courtesy, I want to extend you an invitation to our gathering.

Your presence could be very valuable to the State of Michigan in three ways. First, it could serve as a source of legitimate information for you as related to your “experiment” (The EAA). From your appearance this morning on Detroit Wants to Know, it is clear that you have not read the EAA Report by the EMU faculty that was submitted to the Board of Regents. In the interview, you said that student achievement in the EAA “is improving.” Our analysis of the achievement data provided by Chancellor Conforme finds this claim unquestionably false. In fact, we have documented that the EAA has failed on all 4 criteria laid out by your appointees last December 5th – 1) A stronger partnership is forged between Eastern Michigan University and the EAA; 2) Demonstrated student achievement and progress in EAA schools; 3) Fiscal Accountability; and 4) Complete transparency of all activities, including prompt and appropriate responses to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. Hopefully, one of your appointees will send you a copy of the report soon to save you further from making misstatements. If not, feel free to contact me and I will send you a copy.

Secondly, it could serve the state of Michigan by having its elected ‘leader’ detail his plans for education in the state of Michigan and, in particular, the city of Detroit. For the CEO of this state to stand on the campus of the historic Michigan Normal College that has produced many of the amazing educators and answer questions about his educational plans would be very symbolic (photo op?).

Lastly, given your appointees will not act on the inter-local agreement without your permission, your appearance could serve to bring legitimate transparency and action to Tuesday’s meeting. By directing the Board to vote Tuesday on the EAA agreement, we could see the transparency you promote under your administration in action. The Boardroom of Welch Hall would parallel the Roman Coliseum where the gladiators fight with ideas. Then, after the debate a motion is made to vote on the continuation of the inter-local agreement — an agreement that has not only hurt Eastern Michigan University, but the children of Detroit. With the motion come eyes drawn to you, as your appointees look for a thumb up or down.

I apologize for the lateness of this invitation. But, I have been busy helping current and future teachers on legitimate ways to serve students . . . it is called pedagogy. Nevertheless, I am sure you will be comfortable and welcomed by the hosts of the meeting as most of the Regents are your appointees. And, just in case you need directions to our beautiful campus, I have linked a map . . . please notice it is just a short 7.5 miles down Washtenaw Ave from The Chop House.

Regards,
Stephen Wellinski, Ph.D
Associate Professor, Eastern Michigan University

And here’s our discussion about how this all came to pass, what it’s all about, and what’s at stake.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the objective of the EAA was ever to fix Detroit’s public schools. Given what we’ve seen, I’m relatively confident that the goal all along was just to set the stage for the privatization of public education throughout the city. The primary goal of the EAA, I’m now convinced, was to break the teacher’s union and dismantle the existing infrastructure so that, when things invariably failed, it would be easier to hand the district over to for-profit charter school corporations. And that’s what we’re seeing unfold now… The following comes from a December 3, 2015 report by Detroit’s Channel 4.

The state of Michigan is putting out requests for proposals to find a company or companies to take over Education Achievement Authority (EAA) schools.

According to two state representatives, 31 schools are involved under this proposal. This is not Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan. The Detroit Delegation in Lansing said they fell completely back-doored by this.

The delegation was not in on any of the meetings about this proposal and they think the idea of chartering out the troubled schools is a bad one. On the flip side, no fixes have worked at the chronically underperforming schools.

State Representatives Brian Banks and Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, who head up the Detroit Delegation in the House, are furious about what’s being floated.

“We were told that the 15 schools from the EAA would be charterized, and then 16 additional schools are going to be charterized for a total of 31. This is from someone who is privy to the information and they also forwarded the documents to us. So we believe this was a blatant attempt to just circumvent the process. All these things have been done behind (closed doors),” said Banks

Gay-Dagnogo said she believes this was a plan that wasn’t shared with Detroit caucus members…

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16 Comments

  1. site admin
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Demetrius posted this to an older EAA post this morning, and I thought that we should put it here as well.

    For decades, plutocrats and politicians of both parties have working overtime to turn our once-great system of free, public education into another profitable commodity by convincing parents (who simply want whats best for their children) and students (who don’t yet know any better) that private, for-profit education was better than regular neighborhood schools.

    De-funding public schools and demonizing public school teachers (and teachers’ unions) – while offering private, charter, for-profit schools (and younger, less well-trained, lower-paid teachers) as a “better” “smarter,” “more cost-effective” option has become the norm. The EAA is just one of the boldest, most cynical examples of that trend.

    The end result is that public education, which used to be an integral part of our communities, and core of the cultural DNA of our society, is becoming just another profitable private good, and the politically well-connected companies that “sell” it on Wall Street are no different than those selling laundry detergent or cat food.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    It sickens me that my local university was used in this coordinated campaign to take over and destroy public education in Detroit. It’s absolutely shameful.

  3. Meta
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    The regents may punt again to buy Snyder more time.

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    Snyder is preparing legislation that would significantly restructure schools in Detroit. EMU’s board could choose to delay the decision until after that legislation is introduced sometime next year.

    Read more:
    http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/12/06/eaa-eastern-michigan-university-board-vote/76729526/

  4. BL
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    There’s a protest going down today.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/901761589910242/

  5. Chris Buhalis
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    They will vote for it again. Their other option is to admit what they’ve been doing. I just don’t see that happening.

  6. Teacher Patti
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I have to imagine that someone is making so much money that they have to just keep renewing it. Also, they haven’t been deterred by anything so far…their student teachers are getting screwed, and they don’t seem to care.

  7. anonymous
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Can we get a report from EMU? What’s happening?

  8. Steve Wellinski
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Postponing the vote

  9. kjc
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    god this makes EMU look like a bunch of rat bastards. terrible.

  10. Chris Buhalis
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Kicked it down the road in true cowardly fashion. Punting-Pure Michigan.

  11. TeacherPatti
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone think it was about improving education? Really? I’d love to hear from them.

    Chris Savage did an outstanding job of covering this steaming, heaping turd of an idea. His interviews with EAA teachers are just incredible. My friend who taught there had to fingerprint herself in and out everyday…not sign in, or just show up like professionals do, but actually drop her off a thumbprint. When she got a job at a public district, she took a $25,000 pay cut and was literally selling off her beer cellar to stay afloat. That’s how shitty EAA is–people sell their beer to get out of there.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Clearly the board of regents does not give a fuck. The EMU faculty gave them evidence that academic achievement is dropping across the EAA, EMU students are not being placed in teaching jobs in districts pushing back against the EAA, the promises made by the Governor were never kept, and now there’s an FBI probe. But yet they still voted to keep it going. They still voted to give Rick a little more time to bring the whole thing to fruition. Despicible.

  13. Demetrius
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Clearly, our “local” university is now run by the same corporate toadies that run Lansing, and the rest of Michigan.

    There are still a lot of decent, well-meaning faculty and students, of course … but the Regents clearly no longer represent the communities they are supposed to serve.

  14. Eel
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    And now Ben Carson is on EMU’s campus. It keeps getting better. Maybe he’s applying for the job of President.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/12/heres_how_you_can_see_ben_cars.html

  15. Posted December 10, 2015 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    EAA: Erasing African Americans

  16. Meta
    Posted December 10, 2015 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    From MLive:

    “EMU regent: EAA partnership worth more than having a happy faculty, student body”

    Mike Morris, the chair of Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents, said if he had to choose between staying the course with the school’s commitment to its interlocal agreement with the Education Achievement Authority, and having a happy faculty, staff and student body, he’d choose to keep the contract with the EAA.

    “I see the eyes of those kids (in Detroit schools) who are having a chance to be successful and I hear their parents talk about ‘This is different and so much better. I really think my children have a chance to be successful,'” he said.

    Despite heavy protest and vocal disapproval from across the EMU community, the school’s Board of Regents decided Tuesday to postpone its vote regarding the future of EMU’s involvement with the EAA and the interlocal agreement, guaranteeing a partnership that will last through at least most of 2016.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/12/emu_regent_says_hed_choose_eaa.html

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Holman are confident that, in spite of the leadership vacuum left by Schnitzel’s leaving, and EMU’s notoriously uncooperative Board of Regents, that they can make something happen. Simpson [seen below] tells us that he’s confident that […]

  2. […] [Still want more? Check out my recent interview with EMU College of Education Associate Professor Stephen Wellinski.] […]

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