Reps. Lipton, Dillon: Kindergarten Kids Shouldn’t Have 100 Classmates

Lawmakers blast latest EAA policy that puts 100 kids in a single class
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LANSING – Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) and Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) are condemning the Education Achievement Authority for once again letting down Detroit’s children – this time by squeezing 100 kindergartners into a classroom at the Brenda Scott Academy of Theater Arts. It’s the latest example of how the EAA fails at-risk kids in high-poverty schools in Detroit, and gives more evidence as to why the EAA must be shut down rather than expanded, as Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans are trying to do.

“Sending your 5-year-old off to the first day of kindergarten is a landmark day in any parent’s life,” Dillon said. “We send them off to that first day of school with hope and pride – and often with a few tears in our eyes. So how would you feel knowing that your kid kicked off his or her school years by being one of 100 students wedged inside a single classroom? If it sounds outrageous, that’s because it is, and we must demand better for our kids.”

Education experts recommend a kindergarten teacher instruct no more than a dozen kids at a time. Teacher layoffs and school closings have often pushed the teacher-to-student ratio far beyond that, but the EAA is taking that trend to a terrible new level. With just three teachers and 100 kindergartners in a single room, the ratio at Brenda Scott is 1:33 – nearly three times the recommended level.

Revelations about the crammed-in kindergarten class comes on top of other scandals involving the EAA, including:

• Stagnant or declining test scores among students
• Staff travel expense scandals involving more than $230,000
• Safety concerns among students, and at least four staff or teacher firings or resignations following incidents where a student was pushed or harmed
• Allegations that special-needs students aren’t accommodated as legally required
• Massive disenrollment of more than 2,000 children as parents and students vote with their feet and choose to attend other schools
• The resignation of former EAA Chancellor John Covington after these scandals were revealed

“It should be obvious to everyone by now that the EAA doesn’t work,” Lipton said. “But the governor and legislative Republicans don’t get it. Instead of getting rid of the EAA, they want to expand it beyond Detroit and bring it to communities across the state. It’s not what our kids need, and it’s not what parents want. It’s time for school reform that works.”

Lipton and Dillon have introduced House Bills 5268 and 5269, respectively, to improve Michigan’s challenged schools. Lipton’s bill calls for comprehensive turn-around plans tailor-made for each struggling school that involve input from teachers, administrators, education experts, community members and parents. Dillon’s bill would require the state to determine the true cost of education, realizing that different districts have different strengths, needs and challenges, so that schools can be adequately funded.

“The EAA was an experiment, and it failed,” Dillon said. “I urge our colleagues in the Legislature to take a stand against a school reform model that has hurt our kids and demand better for all of Michigan’s children.”