Education, Michigan Republicans — November 20, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Corporatist mission accomplished: charter schools strangling public schools


Who could have EVER seen this coming???

A downgrade of the bond ratings of 53 Michigan school districts is proving what charter school opponents have long warned against: charter schools are diminishing public schools’ ability to have stable budgets by siphoning off tax dollars into for-profit corporations.

Moody’s Investors Service made this move this week citing “significant fiscal strain related to charter enrollment growth”:

A growing number of Michigan school districts face higher borrowing costs after downgrades this year by Moody’s Investors Service, which cited financial pressure stemming from falling enrollment and charter school growth in a report issued Tuesday.

The bond rating agency said since January it downgraded 53 school districts in Michigan, nearly as many as in the previous two years combined.

Justin Marlowe, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who has written about local government finance, said increased charter school competition and tight state budgets are squeezing the districts.

The “proliferation of charter schools and ongoing state budget problems have put more pressure on local school districts,” Marlowe said, adding there “don’t seem to be any immediate solutions unless we rethink how we finance school districts.”

According to the Moody’s report, 425 of the state’s 549 public school districts lost students between 2004 and 2012, with total enrollment slipping 13.2 percent.

But as overall enrollment was falling, charter schools were growing: They had 120,000 students in Michigan at the end of the last school year and the number of schools rose by 8 percent for this school year, to 298.

This is no accident. It’s a plan that’s been in place by those who wish to diminish the ability of teachers to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions and to redirect tax dollars earmarked for educating our children into the coffers of for-profit charter school companies.

Michigan has nearly a quarter of the charter schools in the United States and roughly 80% of our charter schools are run by for-profit businesses. They frequently have access to school buildings at a fraction of the cost that public schools built them for and then hire non-unionized teachers to educate our kids on the cheap.

All along they’ve been aided and abetted by Michigan Republicans who have helped kneecap teachers unions and have encouraged the proliferation of charter schools since they took power in 2011. It’s plan hatched long ago and now it is playing out exactly as they planned. Rather than making solid investments in our kids and our educators, Republicans have slashed education budgets to the point where nearly 10% of our districts are now dealing with budget deficits. As they have done with our cities, Republicans cut the statewide budget and forced the pain down to the local level.

For a political party that claims to be about traditional American values like offering a good education to every child, they sure have a funny way of showing it.