Archives for category: Michigan

A few years ago, Michigan governor Rick Snyder decided that the best way to fix the financial problems of districts in deficit was to put them under the control of an emergency manager to straighten out their finances. Some districts, however, are so poor that they don’t have enough money to educate their children. It is the state’s duty to help them.

In 2011, an emergency manager decided to give the Muskegon Heights school district to a for-profit charter chain, called Mosaica. It has not been profitable, and the district’s deficit continues.

Mosaica just received an emergency bailout from the state because it couldn’t meet its payroll. The corporation ended its first year in deficit because of the cost of repairs.

Years of deferred maintenance required expenditures of $750,000 to bring the buildings up to code. Meanwhile revenues have shrunk as enrollment dropped from 1400 to 920.

Lingering question: why did the state allow this impoverished, largely African American school district to fall into such shabby condition? Will for-profits be more cautious in the future about taking over neglected districts? Or will they have a commitment from the state for subsidies that were not available to the school district when it had an elected board?

Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton has been one of the most outspoken critics of Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority.

The EAA was created to gather up the low-performing schools in the state and put them under a single leader, in this case, the Broad “trained” superintendent John Covington.

There have been numerous accounts by students and teachers of mistreatment and abuse, poor teaching, inoperable technology, etc.

Governor Snyder asked the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass HB 4369 to expand the EAA.

Before the bill passed, Representative Lipton gave the following speech. The bill now goes to the State Senate, where passage seems likely.


Representative Lipton said:


Microsoft Word – Ellen’s EAA Floor Speech.docx

I rise before you today with profound disappointment and regret, as this is a floor speech that I wished never to have to make.

But here we are, and I can’t help but ask myself ‐ how did we get here? So a little bit of history is in order.

I’d like to take you back to the fall of 2012 ‐ November 2012 to be exact ‐ when a bill was introduced to codify an idea borne of the ideological agenda often referred to as corporate education reform, but in reality de‐form.

And the idea which is being replicated in states all across this country generally goes something like this:

  •   declare public schools a failure ‐ usually urban schools in extremely impoverished neighborhoods
  •   legislate a mechanism under which these schools come under some sort of state executive control
  •   and now with democratically‐elected school boards out of the way, sell said takeover district a bunch of educational elixirs peddled by a band of “edu‐ preneurs” who promise the moon and the stars and everything in between but deliver nothing
  •   and then declare victory, pocket their spoils, and then move on. But they did not expect what happened next in Michigan.

People all across this state said Whoa! Stop the train! Not so fast. And the bill didn’t pass and there was a collective sigh of relief.

But the corporate reformers are persistent ‐ I’ll give them that ‐ and the same old idea was tweaked and turned and re‐introduced and passed from this chamber in record time.

The process to create in statute a state takeover district has not been a smooth one, however, thanks to many Freedom of Information Act Requests, brave teachers and students who have come forward to tell their stories despite being silenced, persistent journalists and bloggers who continued to ask difficult questions to uncover the inconvenient truths, and all those in this chamber and out who bravely continue to speak truth to power. I thank all of you.

I thank the teacher who shared this story:


“The way that they’re treating the students is terrifying,” they said. “We’ve had multiple fights where no security has actually shown up. They’re not suspending students so I’ve been hit by a kid before and nothing has happened. Another teacher has been hit numerous times and nothing has happened to the child who did the hitting even though he was very clearly identified. He is still at school today.

“I’ve never felt this worried about going to school,” they continued. “I’m well aware that most of my kids would protect me and they have before, but they shouldn’t have to. That’s the role of discipline. But, at the same time, I afraid to report a kid because I’ve seen disciplinary officers hit them and I’ve reported it and nothing has happened from the state.


“I’m at my end where I can’t be part of this organization that is abusing children both educationally and physically.”


And another who shared this one:


“I’ve written the state about our highly illegal practices with special education students. I’ve seen exactly four IEPs this year.” And of course there were more than four students with special needs. The teacher explains, “I have at least 20% per class. And I have no paraprofessionals except for one hour a day. It’s horrendous. I have no idea how to modify my teaching plan if I haven’t seen their IEPs. For example, I might need to read the test to them or modify things for math only. I have no idea without seeing the IEP. So, of course these kids are doing poorly because I’m not able to modify my teaching in the way that their IEP specifies.


“Worse yet, if I don’t do it and they fail, they have to pass the kid because their teaching plan wasn’t modified as it should have been. But, I didn’t know! So, kids are being passed on.”

You know, it’s often been said that a society will be measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens

And so, I’d like to thank the many children who have shared their stories with me, stories that are etched in my memory and seared in my heart.

The little boy who told me that he misses seeing books in his schools

The little girl with a hearing impairment who was told to try to learn by reading the teacher’s lips when she had always received a audio amplifying headset

The little boy with cerebral palsy whose IEP was never followed and was told not to finish out the school year because he was going to flunk anyway.

And finally the little girl who told me “I may be poor, but I’m not stupid”

The promise I make to all of you who have joined this fight is that we will not back down. We will not be silenced. We will bear witness.

Because we have no other choice. And because the stakes are far too high.

This is what John Dewey meant when he wrote “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all of the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”


A reader reports:

“Big win for Arne Duncan and Rick Snyder on Eli Broad’s EAA experiment in Detroit:

“Democratic lawmakers said the bill is an attempt to prop up Snyder’s struggling EAA, which has been dogged by declining enrollment, financial problems and teacher turnover during its two years of running schools formerly operated by Detroit Public Schools.

“This isn’t about helping schoolchildren. This is about a politically and ideologically driven agenda to destroy public education as we know it,” said House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills.”

“The EAA isn’t financially viable unless they keep packing in more kids. Now that they have 50 more Michigan (formerly) public schools, and the capacity to take over really as many as they want, they should be able to keep this failed experiment going for a while.

“Now it’s too big to fail, which of course was the point of expanding it.”

The Detroit Data and Democracy Project reports that the children of Detroit have seen deteriorating results since the state takeover of their public schools in 2009.


Dr. Thomas C. Pedroni of Wayne State University reported that the manipulation of statistics has been a defining characteristic of state control of the schools:


He writes:


One year ago this month I watched in disbelief as the Emergency Manager of the moment, Roy Roberts, declared on NBC’s nationally broadcast Education Nation Detroit Summit that Detroit Public Schools had surpassed the Michigan average in 14 of 18 MEAP categories.  At the time I suspected that Snyder’s appointee, a former auto executive with no education background, had simply misspoken or just didn’t quite have his facts straight.  What bothered me more was that none of his carefully selected co-panelists—including EAA Chancellor John Covington and Detroit Parent Network President/CEO Sharlonda Buckman—batted as much as an eye over Roberts’ jubilant mispronouncement.  A clearly impressed Chelsea Clinton declared that when the day came she would gladly enroll her own children in the public schools of Detroit.


As I dug through the MEAP results on the Michigan Department of Education’s website that day—confirming that DPS students had scored behind the state average in all 18 tested categories, typically by 20 percentage points or more—I made a discovery I had not anticipated:  in most categories, children in Detroit’s public elementary and middle schools had fallen even farther behind their state peers since 2009.  That year (2009) was the year that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared Detroit “ground zero” for education reform, and the State once again took away local democratic control of Detroit’s schools.

I was particularly troubled that, since 2009, the youngest children taking the test—3rd, 4th, and 5th graders—had declined the most.  Although already so far behind their statewide peers, Detroit’s youngest test-takers had somehow lost even more ground.


Read what happened when he tried to publish this story in the Detroit News. 


The latest release of test scores in Detroit in 2014 show that the children continue to lose ground compared to their peers in the rest of the state.


Sadly, grievously—the new MEAP data, released February 28, reveal the further deepening of a devastating pattern.  In both reading and math, Detroit’s children have fallen even further behind their state peers.  Somehow, in 10 of the 12 grade-level math and reading MEAP tests, Detroit’s children under state control in DPS and the EAA have lost even more ground.

Fourth graders in Detroit’s state-managed schools actually progressed marginally in reading relative to their Michigan peers, bringing the proficiency gap down by 0.8 points to 29.5 percentage points.  But in every other tested grade– third, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth– they fell even further behind in reading.  In math, Detroit’s sixth grade students in state-managed schools gained marginally on their Michigan peers (by 0.3 points) and are now only 27.7 percentage points behind.  But they lost even more ground to their statewide peers in all the other tested grades– third, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth.


Pedroni says it is another lost year for the children of Detroit.



Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s pet project is the Educational Achievement Authority, where the lowest-performing districts are clustered in a single entity managed by Superintendent John Covington, a Broad Academy graduate. The EAA has been funded not only by taxpayers but by the Broad Foundation and many Detroit philanthropists.

For reasons documented amply by Eclectablog, the EAA has failed to help the state’s neediest children.

Now comes the state testing data, and the evidence is clear about the failure of the EAA.

How about research-based interventions, like reduced class sizes, wraparound services, the arts, medical care, and a sustained effort to reduce poverty and segregation?

Dale Hansen in the Detroit News explains in this blog post how Governor Rick Snyder has underfunded the public schools while claiming (falsely) to have increased funding.

By the way, the title of his article is: “Governor Rick Snyder Is Working to Destroy Public Education.”

He shows how the Governor is pushing teachers out of the pension system, contributing to its woes as there are fewer teachers to pay into it.

He shows how the Governor favors charter schools, and will continue to convert public schools into charter schools wherever and whenever possible.

More than 80% of the charters in Michigan are operated for-profit, meaning that taxpayers’ dollars are going to pay off investors and stockholders, not into the classroom where they belong.

Hansen writes:

Regardless of all of these potential problem areas, Rick Snyder and Michigan Republicans know that every school they deem failing will simply be converted to a charter school, which pulls more students out of traditional public schools. This means less teachers contributing to the public retirement fund and with fewer teachers contributing it requires the state to kick in more. The perception then becomes that greedy teachers are taking money out of the classroom and that public schools are expensive and inefficient.

This is the self-fulfilling prophecy Republicans hope will be the undoing of public schools. The Republican solution to inefficient and expensive public schools makes public schools more inefficient and expensive. It’s a win-win for Republicans. They make public schools look bad while simultaneously putting more kids on the charter school gravy train.

The question of money in education is important but when it comes to the Michigan governor’s race the better question should be, what do we want our education system to look like in the future? Do we want schools that are subject to local checks and balances or a couple massive corporations that make their money based on quantity, not quality? Because regardless of how much either candidate pledges to spend, their goals are profoundly different.

With the peculiar disregard for children that characterizes the current state government of Michigan, the state hopes to reduce legal protections for children with disabilities.

According to Marcie Lipsett, the time to speak up and organize is NOW.

She writes:

“The Michigan Department of Education is proposing catastrophic changes to the rules that govern how students with disabilities and “Individualized Education Programs” (“IEP”S) are educated in our state’s public schools. The public comment period is SHORT and WAYS TO COMMENT ARE LIMITED. If these rule revisions become reality in Michigan they will lead to a landside of similar revisions in states across the U.S. Public Comment will only be accepted through three methods:

Online Submission Form:
Two Public Hearings, both on March 10th:
1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.
Detroit School of Arts
123 Selden Street
Detroit, Michigan 48201

4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.
Lansing Community College West Campus
5708 Cornerstone Drive
Lansing, Michigan 48917

U.S. Mail To:
Public Comment
Office of Special Education
Michigan Department of Education
P.O. Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909

***Public Comment will only be open until March 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm, and will not be accepted via email or fax: Those who wish to comment via email can send comments to Marcie Lipsitt will print and mail every public comment emailed to her by March 11, 2014. Please include name and contact information.”

Her post identifies the objectionable changes.

With my apologies to W. B. Yeats, this blogger says it is too soon to pop the cork about what may be a momentary setback for Governor Snyder’s Educational Achievement Authority, where he hopes to aggregate the state’s lowest performing schools and subject them to large classes and inexperienced teachers.

He has other unsavory options up his sleeve.

She writes:

“Let us be perfectly clear here. This is a political ploy, a shell game of sorts, that is intended to look like a victory for Democrats. It’s not.

“Gov. Snyder, and all GOP legislators are up for re-election. Last month, Eastern Michigan University sounded an SOS when they laid-off nearly all of their education department teachers due to declining enrollment. Last week, Gov. Snyder learned that his education policies have earned him a 62 percent negative rating on his handling of K-12 education. GOP lawmakers know they are being painted with the same brush.

“This is electioneering of the most craven variety. Expect to see legislation, probably already being crafted, that will act as a substitute for the EAA bill. It will give sweeping authority to the state superintendent to play chess with local school districts that are in the bottom 5 percent. It may be held back until say, after the first Tuesday in November, but it will occur.”

After the Michigan Department of Education ended its agreement to hand over low-performing schools to Governor Snyder’s controversial floundering Education Achievement Authority, Represenative Ellen Lipton called for stricter oversight of this entity.

She said:

““This is evidence of a governor, a state education department and an experimental educational entity flying off the rails,” Lipton said. “Why did Gov. Rick Snyder allow Superintendent Flanagan to give authority over school reform to an unproven entity – the EAA – managed by an individual with a track record of failure in his previous job in Kansas City? Why did Flanagan agree to give up his department’s authority for 15 years back in 2011? Why won’t Covington relinquish his control back to the state after being asked to do so by Flanagan? And why won’t the governor, through his control over the EAA Board of Directors that hired and can fire Covington, demand Covington to immediately return control to Flanagan or be removed from office?”

After a series of exposes on Eclectablog about poor conditions of teaching and learning in Governor Rick Snyder’s so-called Education Achievement Authority for failing schools, the Michigan State Department of Education terminated an exclusivity agreement with EAA.

This leaves open the possibility that the state education department might try some evidence-based practices–like smaller classes, experienced teachers, wraparound services–to support the state’s low performing schools instead of clustering them in a district with large classes and inexperienced teachers.


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