In her Washington Post column today, Valerie Strauss reports on a protest by faculty in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University, which is a partner with Governor Rick Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA). The EAA is the body through which the state takes over schools whose standardized tests are in the bottom five percent across the state. These are the same schools that qualify to be turned around under the federal School Improvement Grants program, whose prescribed turnarounds include school closure and privatization.
According to Strauss, “Eastern Michigan University is the only university in the state that signed on to partner with the Education Achievement Authority.” Faculty in the College of Eduacation are protesting, arguing “that they had no input in the way the Education Achievement Authority is run and that they oppose the way EEA is being operated.”
In a letter reprinted by Strauss, the education faculty request that the university’s participation in the Education Achievement Authority “be severed immediately.” “We find the undermining of democratic processes represented in the creation of a district outside the purview of public decision-making and oversight to be in direct conflict with this unviersity’s mission and our legacy as a champion of public education.”
Eastern Michigan University faculty are protesting “that the EAA’s governance is secretive; that student and teacher turnover is excessive; that the EAA relies on young and inexperienced teachers, including many from Teach for America; that many teachers taught outside the areas for which they had certification.”
School districts where the College of Education typically places student teachers have begun protesting the university’s participation in the EAA partnership by refusing to place student teachers from EMU in their classrooms. In their letter, the faculty members state: “From the start, EMU faculty were not invited to give our input into such an arrangement or asked for our expertise as the EAA was established.”
Governor Rick Snyder’s school reform programs include not only the EAA partnership but also the appointment of emergency fiscal managers for municipalities like Detroit and for school districts. The emergency managers are making executive decisions without public oversight to abrogate contracts with teachers’ unions and to turn entire districts over to large national charter management organizations.
Governor Rick Snyder’s brand of school reform emphasizes efficiency over democratic oversight. Michigan is the epicenter of such top-down reforms.