In the wake of the Detroit Free Press‘s explosive eight-day exposé on Michigan charter schools which revealed an astonishing lack of oversight, transparency, and actual performance in charters, Democrats have responded this week with a bill that would place a moratorium on opening any more charters. The legislation was introduced by state Representative Sarah Roberts. Rep. Robers and minority vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee, Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, revealed the new legislation at a press conference today.
The legislation has several components:
- Require complete transparency, including financial disclosure by authorizing bodies, charter schools and educational management organizations and their subcontractors.
- Levy penalties for failing to comply with transparency and financial disclosure requirements.
- Create comprehensive ethics and conflict of interest standards for charter schools, education management organizations, members of charter school boards of directors and authorizing bodies.
- Require a more rigorous charter school authorizing process and strict oversight of existing charter schools to assure high-quality educational standards and outcomes for students.
Roberts issued a statement saying:
In the past 21 years, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and the Legislature have failed to properly oversee charter schools. Now, the MDE and the State Board of Education have called on the Legislature to do this work, so I am introducing a moratorium on all new charters until we fix the problems that exist in the way many charter schools operate. We have to ensure that charter schools are transparent and accountable to the taxpayers whose money they are spending, and that the primary focus is on delivering a quality education to their students.
Rep. Lipton had this to say:
Rep. Roberts has outlined a common-sense plan to ensure that all Michigan charter schools operate with the transparency and accountability that all students deserve,” said Lipton, who serves as and co-chairwoman of the House Democrats’ Education Reform Task Force.
We cannot risk increasing the number of students potentially harmed by these bad actors who financially benefit from the unlevel playing field. Parents, educators and community members need to know what is happening in their charter schools.
The chances of this legislation getting out of committee, much less passing the Republican-controlled state legislature are about nil, unfortunately. The amount of money being spent to promote charter schools and influence lawmakers by anti-public school, anti-teacher groups like the DeVos-funded Great Lakes Education Project and StudentsFirst virtually assures it will never become law.
Still, kudos for Michigan Democrats for putting it on the table. They are showing voters which party gives a damn about improving public education in Michigan and which party (hint: the Republican Party) is beholden to the corporatist interests who seek to enrich for-profit education corporations using taxpayer dollars.
It’s worth noting that Democrats are representing the views of the vast majority of Michiganders. An August EPIC-MRA poll showed that 73% of respondents agree with a moratorium on opening new charters until standards can be put into place by the state.
82% agreed with the statement, “For-profit management companies that either partly or completely run charter schools SHOULD BE required to fully and publicly explain how they spend all of the tax dollars received, and they should be required to be just as accountable and transparent as traditional public schools.”
84% believe that Michigan legislators should “enact a law that would require all charter schools in Michigan to meet the same state standards for student performance, accountability, openness and transparency of all information and decision making that traditional public schools must follow.”
Clearly, Republicans are on the WRONG side of this issue.