Education — August 11, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Over a quarter of Michigan charter school authorizers put in “At-Risk of Suspension” status


State Superintendent Mike Flanagan announced today that 11 of the 40 charter school authorizers have been put in “At-Risk of Suspension” status after a damning investigative report by the Detroit Free Press recently reveal gross negligence, a lack of transparency, nepotism, and, most importantly, poor performance in many of Michigan’s charter schools. In Michigan, which has a quarter of the charter schools in the country, close to 80% of charter schools are for-profit which means they are essentially education corporations that profit from Michigan tax dollars.

The school authorizers who were placed in “At-Risk of Suspension” are:

  • Detroit Public Schools
  • Education Achievement Authority
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Ferris State University
  • Grand Valley State University
  • Highland Park Schools
  • Kellogg Community College
  • Lake Superior State University
  • Macomb Intermediate School District
  • Muskegon Heights Public Schools
  • Northern Michigan University

From a press release (pdf) from the office of State Superintendent Flanagan:

Eleven of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers were put At-Risk of Suspension by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan today, jeopardizing their ability to charter any future schools.

The authorizers named today had deficiencies in key factors of oversight of their charter schools. Michigan law gives the State Superintendent the responsibility to determine whether a charter school authorizer is not engaging in appropriate continuing oversight of its charter schools, and revoke future charter capability of an authorizer if the Superintendent deems it is not performing in such a manner.

“We want all public schools to provide a quality education for Michigan’s kids,” Flanagan said. “I am using the authority provided me in state law to push for greater quality, transparency, and accountability for those who aren’t measuring up as charter authorizers.”

The authorizers on the At Risk of Suspension list are being given until October 22 to remediate those deficiencies before Flanagan makes his final determination in November to suspend the authorizer’s chartering ability.[…]

Each of the named authorizer’s charter school portfolio; that is, all of its charters schools considered as a whole, is in the Bottom 10 percent of the state’s academic Top to Bottom list. They, likewise, have deficiencies in their contract and transparency requirements. […]

Flanagan and the authorizers agreed that future discussions will include developing a long-term accountability system that includes five key areas:

  • Assurance and Verification (developed in collaboration with the Michigan Council of Authorizers and in accordance with the National Association of Charter School Authorizers principles
  • Charter School contract compliance checklist
  • Fair market value of leases
  • Coordinated transparency reporting around fiscal issues for ALL school districts in Michigan
  • Academic improvement factors

It’s astonishing, even scandalous, that over a quarter (27.5%) of our charter school authorizers made this list. Considering that these school drain resources from our struggling public schools who face slashed budgets thanks to Michigan Republicans who used the funds to pay for a huge tax break for corporations, having them operate with such inadequate oversight proves that our system is broken and that the “fixes” proposed by Republicans such as the expansion of charter schools, is the exact opposite of what we actually should be doing.

Sadly, according to the press release, none of the schools under the purview of these “At-Risk of Suspension” authorizers will be removed from their “oversight”, even if they are eventually suspended. Rather, the authorizers will simply be prohibited from authorizing new charter schools.