No Grand Rapids Carve-Out under EAA Bill

Josh Pugh of Progress Michigan writes that Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, is having "issues with integrity," alleging that Rep. Lyons' bill to expand the state Education Achievement Authority has a clause that would exempt Grand Rapids Public Schools. 

This is a rumor I first heard when attending a meeting held by Oakland Schools Superintendent Vicki Markavtich. But it's not true.

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Under H.B. 4369 (see page 55), which Pugh cited in his Detroit News column, a school may be delayed from state takeover for up to three years if it has replaced its principal and at least 50 percent of instructional staff. These requirements are clearly not designed specifically for Grand Rapids Public Schools and can alone debunk Pugh's allegation.

But, taking a look at the list of criteria schools must meet to have the chance delaying inclusion into the EAA is instructive.

Below are the district-level requirements.

  1. The school must be in a district that is not running an operating deficit. According to The Detroit News, 500 districts would meet that requirement this year.
  2. The school must be in a district that has maintained an operating fund balance of at least 5 percent. According to The Detroit News, nearly 600 Michigan school districts and charter public schools had an operating fund balance of at least 5 percent in 2011.
  3. The district must have received an unqualified opinion from an independent auditor for the past three years. Even the Muskegon Heights school district received an unqualified opinion from an independent auditor in 2011, despite the fact that parts of the audit could not be completed, due to an ongoing investigation by the Michigan State Police.
  4. The district has provided financial reports and audits in a timely fashion.

Though Grand Rapids Public Schools may qualify under these requirements, they are clearly not tailored for a particular district. In addition to these requirements, and the requirement that a school replace its principal and at least 50 percent of its instructional staff, schools must also have increased student learning time, increased staff collaboration time and use student data to differentiate instruction, among other things.

This is not an unequivocal endorsement of HB 4369. I have my own concerns about the proposal, chiefly regarding the methodology of how schools are determined to be persistently low-achieving

But the allegation that this bill is somehow designed specifically to exempt Grand Rapids Public Schools is wrong. Those skeptical of the proposal should read the bill and raise substantive criticisms.

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