Eyes absent (Eya) is a highly conserved transcription cofactor and protein phosphatase that plays an essential role in eye development and survival in Drosophila. Ectopic eye induction assays using cDNA transgenes have suggested that mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) activates Eya by phosphorylating it on two consensus target sites, S402 and S407, and that this activation potentiates the ability of Eya to drive eye formation. However, this mechanism has never been tested in normal eye development. In the current study, we generated a series of genomic rescue transgenes to investigate how loss- and gain-of-function mutations at these two MAPK target sites within Eya affect Drosophila survival and normal eye formation: eya(+)GR, the wild-type control; eya(SA)GR, which lacks phosphorylation at the two target residues; and eya(SDE)GR, which contains phosphomimetic amino acids at the same two residues. Contrary to the previous studies in ectopic eye development, all eya genomic transgenes tested rescue both eye formation and survival equally effectively. We conclude that, in contrast to ectopic eye formation, MAPK-mediated phosphorylation of Eya on S402 and S407 does not play a role in normal development. This is the first study in Drosophila to evaluate the difference in outcomes between genomic rescue and ectopic cDNA-based overexpression of the same gene. These findings indicate similar genomic rescue strategies may prove useful for re-evaluating other long-standing Drosophila developmental models.