Apr 19, 2024 - News

Board calls for charter school transparency

Illustration of magnifying glass showing the inside of an apple.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Michigan State Board of Education is calling for more transparency and oversight for charter schools, Chalkbeat Detroit reports.

Why it matters: Charter schools served around 149,000 students in the 2023-24 year, or 10.7% of Michigan students. Nearly half of Detroit students attend charters.

  • They're pitched as a helpful, more innovative choice for parents, but critics see them as chaotic, with limited regulation, using public dollars without financial transparency and profiting from public education.

The latest: A resolution introduced this month by Democratic board member Mitchell Robinson asks the Legislature to pass bills that would have the Michigan Department of Education oversee approval of new and expanding charters.

  • The bills would allow only nonprofits to manage charters and mandate that charters comply with the same transparency laws as traditional public schools.

Friction point: "While the original notion of charter schools as laboratories of innovation came from teachers unions, that purpose has now largely been lost to predatory for-profit charter organizations … and politically motivated special interest groups," Robinson said.

  • Republican Tom McMillin, the only board member to vote against the resolution, said those who want to impose more restrictions "don't want parents to have choices."

Flashback: Michigan lawmakers created charter schools 30 years ago to offer families more choices with better academics and create competition to improve public districts.

  • They're now a political flashpoint, and questions remain about whether they will produce better academic results.
  • Detroit charters tend to perform better than traditional public schools, but the gains are minimal and well below state averages.

Context: Charters in Michigan are publicly funded but usually rely on management companies to oversee day-to-day operations. Managers of more than 80% of charters are for-profit.

By the numbers: There are 285 charter districts with 363 schools in the state — about a third of local education agencies.

What's inside: The bills the resolution proposes would include:

  • Charter management firms must have complete financial transparency and publish expenditure reports.
  • Mandating charters and their managers comply with open meetings laws and the Freedom of Information Act.

Read the full Chalkbeat story: Michigan State Board of Education calls for more charter school oversight and transparency


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