Virtual School Meanderings

December 3, 2012

Washington Post: Michigan Coalition Opposes Race To Top Finalist In Letter To Obama, Duncan

I wanted to re-post this today, given that I am one of the many signatories, and that the collection of lame duck bills includes provisions to drastically expand online learning in the state with not checks or balances and no measures to ensure quality.  It essentially throws open the doors to a system of K-12 online learning that, to date, has produced very poor results in Michigan (e.g., one news item noted that the Michigan Virtual Academy reported results lower than that of the Detroit Public School District).

For those not familiar with what is happening in Michigan, I would recommend reading Michigan again: ‘This bill … disenfranchises voters, ends their local control, and unconstitutionally hands taxpayer-owned property over to for-profit companies.’

Michigan coalition opposes Race to Top finalist in letter to Obama, Duncan

A large coalition of Michigan parents, PTA leaders, K-12 teachers, professors and others — including the superintendent of Detroit Public Schools — sent a letter (see text below)  to President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan protesting the selection of a new education entity as a finalist in the latest edition of Race to the Top, the administration’s signature education initiative.

The U.S. Education Department this week announced 61 finalists in the latest Race to the Top edition, this one designed to award a total of nearly $400 million in federal funds to school districts that agree to implement specific school reforms. The list of finalists was somewhat unusual, given that it was intended for districts but a few individual public charter schools won, as well as charter school networks. In Michigan, the only finalist named was the “Education Achievement Authority,” a newly created entity that will operate  the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan. The state government had applied to three previous rounds of Race to the Top, not winning any of them.

Here’s the letter that explains why so many people in Michigan oppose the naming of the EAA as a Race to the Top finalist:

Dear President Obama and Secretary Duncan:

We are encouraged that education continues to occupy such an important space in the national agenda, and we thank you for your efforts in promoting dialogue around this critical issue.  We are writing to share our deep concerns with the possible awarding of Race to the Top funds to the “Education Achievement Authority” or EAA in the state of Michigan.

The EAA, a “state reform” district modeled after the problematic New Orleans Recovery School District (RSD), was established through an August 2011 interlocal agreement between then-Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools Roy Roberts and Eastern Michigan University under the former Public Act 4 of 2011 (“The Emergency Manager Law”), an act that was repealed by the Michigan electorate in the November 6 election. Shortly thereafter, the Detroit Board of Education voted to disband the EAA and to sever ties with Eastern Michigan University.  Despite the voice of the electorate, our Michigan state legislature is pressing forward with bills during the lame duck session that would codify the EAA into state law.

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