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EMU regents to consider fate of Education Achievement Authority

Dec 7, 2015

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Gov. Snyder’s controversial Education Achievement Authority faces a key test at an Eastern Michigan University board of regents meeting Tuesday.

The EAA is Snyder’s signature education initiative. It was meant to be a statewide district for the lowest-performing 5% of schools, but has never expanded beyond 15 schools in Detroit.

The EAA never got legislative approval. It only exists because of a 2011 inter-local agreement between EMU, and the state-run Detroit Public Schools.

EMU’s involvement with the EAA has been condemned by many faculty and students.

After facing protests and heated criticism at a board meeting last year, the regents controversially decided to continue the agreement, but also ordered the EAA to show specific improvements within the year.

Political science professor and Faculty Senate Vice President Judith Kullberg said a faculty report, commissioned by the board, shows that improvement hasn’t happened — and regents should cut ties with the EAA because the partnership “harms Eastern’s reputation.”

“At this point, we feel the evidence is so overwhelming that the EAA is a failure, that we are recommending the regents withdraw immediately from the interlocal agreement,” said Kullberg, adding that faculty believes the school can do that because the EAA “is in breach of contract.”

Barring that, the interlocal agreement gives the EAA 180 days to find a new partner if EMU decides not to renew it.

In 2014, the regents passed a resolution calling for improvements in four specific areas: a stronger partnership with EMU; progress on student achievement; improved fiscal accountability; and increased evidence of transparency.

“There has been no improvement in performance in these four areas,” Kullberg said.

In terms of student achievement, for example, as measured by ACT scores, “Less than one-tenth of one percent of EAA high school students are ready for college,” said Kullberg.

“This is the lowest in the state, and it’s lower than it was a year ago. So there’s no improvement.”

The interlocal agreement is on the regents’ meeting agenda, but it’s not clear how or whether they plan to act. All but one of the current EMU regents are Snyder appointees.

It’s also not clear what the governor’s office would do if EMU chooses to end the agreement, just as Snyder is pushing legislation to drastically overhaul both the Detroit Public Schools and the city’s larger school system.

“The EAA’s role in a restructured Detroit public school plan is still to be determined,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray told the Detroit Free Press.