EAA debate heats up in Lansing, final vote possible this week
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville hopes to hold a final vote this week on a bill to expand the state's Education Achievement Authority (EAA).
The EAA is the entity the state uses to take over persistently failing schools. Right now, it runs 15 schools in Detroit. The bill would pave the way for it to expand up to 50 schools statewide.
Richardville, R-Monroe, says the EAA is not a perfect solution, but it's better than doing nothing.
"There has to be something done to help the kids that are in these failing school districts," he said. "I just, I feel we weren't sent up here to maintain the status quo, especially in schools that are failing. So, it's our job to do something."
A vote on the bill in its current form is not guaranteed. Richardville says he is still working to win over some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate in order to get enough support for the legislation to pass. If the Senate decides for a second time in over a year to make changes to the bill, it would go back to the state House for a concurrence vote. That's something Richardville and other supporters hope to avoid.
Meanwhile, Democrats hope to ramp up protests against the EAA and legislation to expand it. They held an unofficial hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Only EAA opponents were invited to speak.
"I've seen kids get punched in the face… I've seen kids get pushed into the ground, I've seen security guards just push a kid for no reason," said former EAA teacher Mechelle Stieglitz, who says she is concerned for students' safety, especially if the authority is expanded to dozens of new schools.
"I believed in it," said current EAA teacher Jordan Smellie, who teaches music at Marion Law Academy. "I moved 500 miles to be a part of the EAA because I believed in its educational mission. It was a good try. But it needs to end. This cannot be expanded."
Smellie says the EAA does not give teachers at his school basic resources necessary to educate students. Other critics point to mixed standardized test results and plummeting student enrollment numbers.
EAA officials say they are not aware of any reports of physical abuse. They say students are showing improvement.