Faculty weighed in, students protested, and members of the community voiced their opposition, but Eastern Michigan University's Board of Regents decided to not sever ties with the Education Achievement Authority.
Previous to the meeting, representatives of the ACLU and EMU faculty spoke out against the EAA. The Education Achievement Authority or EAA has been opposed by many Michigan teachers, students and parents since it began three years ago. Critics opposed the state-run district because it took control of 15 schools from the Detroit Public School Board. They've also said the EAA tested unproven teaching methods and educational software on students in Detroit. Curt Guyette is an investigative reporter for the ACLU who's written about the problems plaguing the EAA. "I think it's obvious on its face. It's not just a matter of opinion, it's a matter of fact. These kids were used as guinea pigs, they were used as guinea pigs for this new educational model, they were used as guinea pigs for this software. That's not even a debate."
"We feel very strongly that the school's reputation has been harmed by its association with the EAA." That's a quote from EMU faculty senate vice president Judy Kuhlberg. She says Eastern's standing as a respected teaching school is at stake. "Our students have been harmed because many teachers union have boycotted our student teachers as a result of the EAA, so it's been very difficult for the COE to place student teachers."
Kuhlberg says a year ago EMU's Board of Regents made an agreement with the faculty senate. "...that they would indeed terminate their relationship with the EAA."
She says faculty senate members and EMU's College of Education spent the last few months on that evaluation and found that the EAA has made no improvement. Kuhlberg says faculty members now want the Board of Regents to follow through on their agreement to end the school's role in the Education Achievement Authority.
According to Guyette, ending that partnership is not going to be an easy decision for EMU regents. He says that's because all except one were appointed by Governor Snyder. "The problem is that it's all controlled by the governor. In order for the EAA to cease to exist, one of the two partners in the inter-local agreement has to pull out out of that agreement. But, again, these are appointees of the governor...and this is the governor's baby. "
Kuhlberg says says the faculty senate highly recommended that the regents vote to end the contract with the EAA.
Before the Regents met, a group of about fifteen students protested outside of Welch Hall where the meeting took place on campus. They also opposed EMU renewing their contract with the EAA.Samir Webster was among those who marched around campus. "It's a taking over of public schools for corporate gains. It's the removal of a community having a say in the education of their children."
A larger group of protesters joined the students with signs and shouted their opposition during the Regents meeting; many of them are from the Detroit area.
Then, at the meeting, the Board decided to not take action. Mike Morris, chair of the Board of Regents said it was at least partially due to pending action in Lansing. “Based on... ongoing efforts in Lansing to find an overarching agreement with respect to the Detroit Public Schools and the Education Achievement Authority, we are postponing a vote on Eastern’s involvement with the Education Achievement Authority.We remain optimistic and confident that this matter will be resolved in the near term.”
This drew further protest from the crowd; some followed the Regents out to their cars and attempted to lock arms and block their exit. Eastern police officers had to move to disperse the crowd so the Regents could depart.
After yesterday's Board of Regents meeting, Eastern Michigan University's Executive Director of Media Relations, Geoff Larcom, issued this statement:
The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents Tuesday postponed voting on the University’s continued involvement with the Education Achievement Authority, citing ongoing efforts among Lansing lawmakers to develop a new agreement between Detroit Public Schools and the EAA.
Mike Morris, chair of the EMU Board of Regents, made the announcement at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“We appreciate the work and comments (regarding the EAA) provided by many stakeholders including the faculty, Student Government and others,” Morris said. “However, we remain steadfast in our support of dedicated efforts to improve educational outcomes for students throughout Michigan, with a focus on urban districts.
“Based on this and the ongoing efforts in Lansing to find an overarching agreement with respect to the Detroit Public Schools and the Education Achievement Authority, we are postponing a vote on Eastern’s involvement with the Education Achievement Authority. We remain optimistic and confident that this matter will be resolved in the near term.”
The board’s next scheduled meeting is Feb. 5, 2016