LANSING – House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) and state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) said today that they are grateful the Michigan Department of Education is cracking down on authorizers of underperforming charter schools, but expressed dismay that charter schools have been allowed to operate with a minimum amount of accountability and oversight.
“We’ve been concerned for quite a while about the performance, accountability and transparency of charter schools,” Greimel said. “The decision of the Michigan Department of Education to put the authorizers of underperforming and unaccountable schools on notice is a step in the right direction, but we can’t stop there. We must make sure that all schools in the state play by the same rules and are held accountable to parents and taxpayers.”
The Michigan Department of Education has put more than a quarter of the charter school authorizers in the state at risk of being suspended because of low academic performance and a lack of accountability at the charter schools they oversee. The authorizers include universities such as Eastern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, the state-run Education Achievement Authority and Detroit Public Schools, as well as Highland Park Schools and Muskegon Heights Public Schools, which were taken over by the state and transformed into charter school districts two years ago.
“I’m glad to see the Michigan Department of Education and Superintendent Mike Flanagan step up and demand better for our kids,” Lipton said. “All Michigan children deserve the very best education possible, whether they go to a school in a public school district or attend a charter school. Schools that take public money must be held accountable to taxpayers, as should the authorizers who are supposed to oversee them.”
The at-risk authorizers have until Oct. 22 to address problems in academic performance, financial audits, state contracts and other issues. Flanagan has said he will suspend authorizers who don’t, meaning that they won’t be able to open new schools or expand existing ones.
“This is a first step toward making Michigan’s charter schools accountable and transparent,” Greimel said. “Too many charter schools have operated under a cloud of secrecy for too long, and Superintendent Flanagan is right to put pressure on them to clean up their act and address their educational performance problems. Going forward, we must demand more openness from our charter schools and their authorizers, and we must always put Michigan kids first – not the for-profit corporations that run their charter schools.”