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Letter: Plymouth-Canton Superintendent Speaks Out Against Education Bill

Superintendent Jeremy Hughes warns of effects of Education Achievement Authority legislation.

To the Parents and Friends of Plymouth-Canton Community Schools –

Although all the news from Lansing lately is about “Right to Work,” behind the scenes there is still education legislation that is moving forward behind the scenes and, if passed, would have profound effects on Michigan’s public schools, and on PCCS in particular.

This legislation pertains to the EAA (Education Achievement Authority).  The EAA was formed a year ago as a kind of separate “school district” in Detroit that would take over the Detroit schools that fall in the bottom 5% of schools based on student achievement.  The legislation now in Lansing would expand the EAA’s authority and allow it to take over any school in the state that is in the bottom 5%.  Although the likelihood of that ever being the case in Plymouth-Canton is slim to none, wherever it did occur it would be taking local control away from elected school boards.  It would, in essence, be creating a statewide school district.

On top of that, the EAA would be totally independent of any local control.  According to the proposed legislation, it would not even be accountable to the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Schools.  It would report directly to the Governor.  It would not have to administer the MEAP tests, which, though not a perfect testing system, is still the one common yardstick used to determine if students are making progress on basic skills.

Of most concern to us in Plymouth-Canton is the provision that would allow the EAA to take over vacant school buildings, wherever they are located.  If we closed a school in Plymouth-Canton, we would be required to put that school on a state listing of vacant school buildings and keep the school (even though vacant) in operating condition for two years.  During these two years, the EAA could, by paying the appraised value of the building, purchase it without our consent for the appraised value, even if we could have got more than the appraised value by selling it to a non-school entity.

We in Plymouth-Canton support school reform.  No organization, schools included, can survive without constantly trying to improve.  The EAA, however, has been in existence for only a year, with very mixed results in Detroit.  To legislate it as the premier answer to underperforming schools statewide does not make sense.  There are other school improvement strategies that have proven success and deserve to be considered.  Most of all, the local authority of school boards should be preserved and not taken away and given to an independent state “super district.”

If you share these concerns, please contact our legislators.  This Thursday is the last day of the “lame duck” session and these school bills are looming on the horizon for last minute consideration.

I am writing this email representing myself only and do not claim to be speaking for the Board of Education.

Jeremy M. Hughes, Ph.D.
Superintendent

a worker December 13, 2012 at 04:04 PM
WOW... It's amazing to see how the school administrators (yes... even the ones at UCS) squirm at the thought of changes in education when it just might mean a pay cut to them. I hope they all know that the very employees that were thrown out on the street (with no regard for their financial future) when the administration decided to outsource will be the ones that support the ideas to change the education system. We will all be voting yes when it comes to a change. You administrators showed no regard for your support personel... We will be happy to vote yes when it's time to change the education system.
Patti McCoin December 13, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Thank you Dr. Hughes for alerting the community to the dangers of this legislation. The EAA has only had students in their system since school started in September, I'm pretty certain that is not enough time to evaluate their performance.
Kate Borninski December 14, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Dr. Hughes, thank you for taking the time to alert the parents and community about this legislation. It's important for superintendents and the board of education to inform the public about impending legislation that could change public education in our state.
Michael Pare December 14, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Thank you Dr. Hughes. It is time for all those who support public education to take a stand to defend this important institution so vital to a democratic society. Parents need to be informed on - and become involved in - what is going on in Lansing, whether you support the current legislation that is being proposed or not. It is also high time for all the members of our PCCS board to take a stand in support of public education. That is why they were elected, after all.
Danielle December 14, 2012 at 04:18 AM
You do know that this is an issue in the state legislature and you don't get to vote, right? Aside from that, your rhetoric that "you screwed me so I'm going to screw you" is the biggest problem in American politics and policy-making today. Please don't stoop to the administration's level, but look at this issue fairly. The EAA is an unknown quantity still and we shouldn't be making any additional legislation supporting it without more time and knowledge of its effects.

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