March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Lansing-area educators want a halt to Education Achievement Authority legislation

Lansing School Board member Nino Rodriguez joins nearly 20 other education officials to protest House Bill 4369 at Lansing Eastern High School. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Wednesday, March 13 — Lansing School District Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul called a Republican-led effort to create a statewide Education Achievement Authority “blasphemous” at a press conference today.

“In my 40 years (in public education), I don’t think I’ve seen anything more blasphemous as this toward public education,” Caamal Canul announced. She was flanked by nearly 20 representatives from Lansing-area districts and education associations.

The group was protesting House Bill 4369, which would put the state’s Education Achievement Authority into law, expanding the program beyond the 15 Detroit public schools already under its control. Schools would enter the EAA after being in the bottom 5 percent of lowest-performing schools after three consecutive years — often called “priority schools.”

The Lansing School District could lose control of six schools under the legislation, including Eastern High School, where today’s press conference was held.

The state House Education Committee is discussing the bill today. It was introduced last week by Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto. Lyons introduced similar legislation last year that made it out of committee but was never voted on. The new bill includes changes like capping the EAA to 50 schools.

Lyons has said the bill “helps kids trapped in failing schools.”

But Caamal Canul and others today criticized it as unproven “experiment” for dealing with underperforming schools.

“What we have in front of us is an experiment,” said Ray Telman, executive director of the Middle Cities Education Association, which represents a group of urban school districts in the state. “We should see it succeed before we impose it on other school districts.”

Caamal Canul said it was playing politics with public education.

“Unfortunately this bill is not about pedagogy — it’s about politics,” she said.

Caamal Canul called the bill a “reductionist” philosophy for improving schools: “Taking education to its simplest forms.”

The EAA legislation is not unlike the Legislature’s passing of an emergency manager law, which grants a state-appointed manager broad authority for balancing a municipality’s budget. In November, voters repealed the emergency manager law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder two years ago. Snyder signed similar legislation less than two months after voters had rejected Public Act 4.

“The Legislature is not listening to the people,” Caamal Canul said of the comparison.