In a diary on Wednesday, Daily Kos members were asked to contact Michigan lawmakers to voice their opposition to several bills that targeted public education. The diary examined several bills including one that …
would expand a separate and statewide school district (the Educational Achievement Authoity) overseen by a governor-appointed chancellor and functioning outside the authority of the State Board of Education or state school superintendent. These schools are exempt from the same laws and quality measures of community-governed public schools. The EAA can seize unused school buildings (built and financed by local taxpayers) and force sale or lease to charter, non-public or EAA schools.The EEA was originally set up under the Emergency Manager Act, which was overturned by the vote of the people of Michigan on November 6. Despite this, and despite the Detroit Board of Education voting to disband the EEA, the Republican controlled legislature is pushing not simply to move forward but to expand the EEA and its powers over the state as indicated above.
That the Republicans would be doubling down in their attacks on public education is no surprise. What is disappointing is that once again they appear to have collaborators in the administration of President Obama. Michigan’s EEA was one of the sixty-one finalists in the latest round of Arne Duncan’s notorious Race to the Top program.
You may remember Duncan as the one who callously stated that Hurricane Katrina was "the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans". That he could make such a statement after seeing the devastation of the hurricane says all anyone needs to know about the character of the man. Yet he remains the administration’s point man on education.
In selecting the EEA as an RttT finalist, the administration has once again demonstrated that it is totally oblivious to the issues related to public education. Their previous efforts have involved the failed schemes of charter schools, merit pay, more and more standardized tests, and valued added metrics.
Despite being endorsed by the National Education Association, the administration has been no friend of teachers or their unions. The President’s statements after the wholesale firing of teachers in Providence, Rhode Island were revealing. Equally revealing was former Chief of Staff and current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s treatment of the Chicago teachers that led to their strike. The administration has cozied up to Michelle Rhee, and the Democratic Convention screened the anti-union movie, Won’t Back Down.
A group of concerned Michigan citizens have written a letter to the President and Secretary Duncan opposing the selection of the EEA as a Race to the Top finalist and asking that it not be considered in the final selection. You can read the entire letter here.
I am asking that all DK members who wrote or emailed Michigan lawmakers protesting the proposed anti-public school legislation to please write, phone or email the White House and request that they rethink their position on the EEA selection. Attacks on public education are wrong whether they come from Republicans or from a Democratic administration.
It is unfortunate that the Republican backed EEA is endorsed by the administration at a time when Michigan educators are fighting the Republican assaults on public schools. It would be tragic if, after the people of Michigan rejected the Emergency Manager Law, the administration were to approve funding for the equally odious, undemocratic EEA program.
In the recent election, the National Education Association, the Michigan Education Association, and educators around the country had the President’s back, despite the fact that during his first term he obviously didn’t have ours. It’s time for the President to decide which side he is on. Will the President have our backs in his second term?